NAS Patuxent River Community
Hurricane Florence Recovery: Testing the Marine Corps’ Resilience
Story by MAJ Simba Chigwida on 01/08/2019
From working in comprised facilities and temporary trailers to repairing damaged homes, the Marine Corps community continues to face daily challenges following Hurricane Florence. Although the storm made landfall on September 14, 2018, Marines at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, and MCAS Cherry Point are still recovering.
Due to the housing shortage in the local area, Marine Corps Installations East (MCIEAST) worked with the Marine Corps’ Manpower & Reserve Affairs this month to raise the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates for Marines affected. Nearly 70 percent of the 6,200 homes at these bases also sustained some level of damage. MCICOM and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) continue to advocate on behalf of residents with the privatized housing partners to establish, communicate, and execute home repair plans.
To address base infrastructure, Gen. Robert Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified last December before Congress and discussed the need for $3.6 billion in appropriated funds to repair installations impacted by Hurricane Florence.
“We’ve been seriously impacted by this storm, and you can see the impacts across all of the bases,” said Maj. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, Commander, Marine Corps Installations Command (MCICOM). “We can’t afford recovery internally. We’re doing this wisely, and we’re not trying to fix things that do not need fixing we just want to fix the things that are broken and get our community back on its feet.”
Thirty-one new military construction replacement projects and demolition efforts will cost approximately $2 billion. Repairs to existing buildings will cost $1.3 billion. The remaining $300 million will fund the replacement of destroyed information technology systems and other repairs.
MCB Camp Lejeune, MCAS New River, and MCAS Cherry Point heavily contribute to Marine Corps readiness and MCB Camp Lejeune is home to the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF), which oversees and maintains a third of the Marine Corps’ combat operating power. Several headquarters buildings, training facilities, and aircraft hangers were affected by Hurricane Florence. II MEF is now able to meet operational commitments, but training environments remain degraded.
“When Marines are not able to train in optimal training environments, it presents some risks,” said Coglianese. “The single largest impact is the damage from Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune. The hurricane severely diminished the available training area on the beach, causing serious above the waterline and limiting training space for amphibious operations.”
Additionally, rail line damage at MCB Camp Lejeune prevents II MEF from utilizing this mission-critical transportation capability for deployments and redeployments. II MEF must now develop plans for other means of transportation to either training locations or points of embarkation.
MCICOM conducted a thorough damage assessment and economic analysis to determine which facilities required replacement, repair, or demolition. Roughly 800 buildings across the three bases have been compromised. About 500 of those buildings were severely damaged, several of which are incapable of being occupied. Approximately 3,000 military personnel and 1,000 on-base family members were displaced.
“The average age of facilities on these bases is between 40 and 50 years old, with some even over 70-years-old. With a lack of relocation options to transfer Marines, we’ve had to order and set up temporary trailers to ensure missions are completed,” said Coglianese.
This recovery will take years to complete given the hurricane’s magnitude. The safety, security, and well-being of service members, veterans, civilians, and their families is central to the Marine Corps’ mission. MCICOM is dedicated to protecting installations, strengthening resilience, and supporting the military community.
“We still face trials ahead on our road to recovery. I am confident in Brigadier General Benjamin T. Watson’s ability to navigate the rebuilding of our bases as the commanding general of MCIEAST,” said Coglianese.