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Camp Lejeune Marines help with Indiana disaster recovery


By George Olsen


Camp Lejeune Marines help with Indiana disaster recovery

New Bern, NC – INTRO - The Camp Lejeune-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has been in Indiana since the first of the month to receive realistic urban training in advance of a late summertime deployment. But while there they found themselves in a real-life disaster situation and took breaks from training to help out affected communities. George Olsen has more.

The goal in the training the 2200 Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU are currently receiving at Camp Atterbury Indiana is pretty basic. SSgt. Bryce Piper, the Public Affairs Chief for the 26th MEU.

07:04 We don't want them to have to see something like that for the first time when they actually go into combat.

Hence, preparations were made to make the training as realistic as possible. First, get everybody away from Camp Lejeune and their comfort zone. Then put the professionals to work hire a production company, complete with Arabic speaking actors, to come in and prepare the scene.

07:04 There is a scenario where the Marines have to go into a village and meet with the local village leaders and liaise with them, set up a relationship and establish that relationship. They go in and meet with that village elder and he says there is insurgent activity and while the Marines are checking that out, the production company sets off a fake land mine so some of the villagers are injured and the Marines don't know any of this is going on, so they have to react and they have to make a series of decisions. They have these amputees as if its combat and these folks are injured and they're laying there writhing and screaming and there's real fake blood and it looks extremely realistic and, because we want to make this as realistic for the Marines as possible.

That scenario and many others have taken place as planned. But other events unplanned have occurred as well.

00:39 One of the first days Camp Atterbury was struck by a tornado when some of the Marines were actually sleeping out in the field so it was quite a welcome for us. We've had quite a bit of extreme weather out here with the tornado, some severe thunderstorms, etc.

No Marines were injured, but SSgt. Piper reports Camp Atterbury sustained an estimated 20 million dollars in damage. And storms in the Midwest late last week and during the weekend caused severe problems for Indiana and neighboring states. So the 26th MEU, in state for war-time training, went to work on a hometown disaster, providing anything from aerial photos so emergency management officials could see just where the damage was to needed manpower to literally stem an oncoming tide.

02:46 It was the following day we got a call that there was a levy in a town called Elnora, Indiana that's about 66 miles southwest of Camp Atterbury where we are. We dispatched approximately 140 Marines out to that location to help assist with shoring up that levy. There's about a one-mile section of levy they needed to raise 3 feet, and that's quite a bit of work. That was a joint operation. The Indiana National Guard was key to helping with that, and of course the local townspeople, there were Amish there, Mennonites, everybody pitched in to make that happen. They levy did hold. There were a few leaks but the levy held.

Up to 1200 people in Elnora were in shelters at the height of the flooding. By Tuesday the number was down to 300. At the moment 26th MEU personnel are pretty much back to their planned realistic urban training schedule SSgt Piper said there may still be one or two Marines working as liaisons with the Elnora community, but that's about it. And he added that throughout the time Marines & Sailors were providing assistance to the local community, their training exercises were on-going. A published report on Tuesday said Elnora officials thought the waters of the White River had already crested, so further assistance from the Marines may not be needed. But if they are, the 26th MEU stands by.

05:10 There's going to be quite a bit of damage. There's a lot of communities that are in crisis. Our commanding officer made it very clear early on that, yeah, we came here to do training but he refused to stand by and watch this disaster happen and do nothing about it. So each time we've received a request, we've moved in to support.

The 26th MEU remains in Indiana thru June 19th. They are slated to deploy in August with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. SSgt Bryce Piper is the Public Affairs Chief for the 26th MEU. I'm George Olsen.