ST. THOMAS, U.S Virgin Islands --
Sgt. Andrew J. Jackson, a St. Croix native, currently living on St. Thomas, and a Marine reservist assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 45, 4th Marine Logistics Group, survived the intensity of Hurricane Irma, which laid destruction to most of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Jackson attended the University of the U.S. Virgin Islands to study chemistry and later enlisted in the Marine Corps as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist to further his experience; he acquired more than the experience he sought and learned to lead in chaotic situations.
“I was a CBRN Marine in Okinawa with [III Marine Expeditionary Force],” Jackson said. “My Marine Corps training has shown me to always be prepared, which I was when the hurricane came. During the storm I could hear the roof peeling off my neighbor’s apartment. When the winds died down a little, I called out to them. They answered and I told them to come over. This was during the storm. I decided to go to them and take them under my roof, since my roof was made of concrete and my windows were boarded.”
Jackson said the storm was one of the worst he has seen. Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 when it made landfall in the Caribbean, reached wind speeds of up to 185 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“When Hurricane Irma came, I was here in St. Thomas,” Jackson said. “People prepared by boarding the windows and getting supplies. We are all familiar with hurricanes, but this one was by far the worst hurricane we’ve had.”
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Expeditionary Strike Group 2 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) were in the Caribbean Sea at the time of the hurricane and was one of the first responders to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal and local authorities with hurricane relief.
“We were working on this hill with Marines and Seabees, and we ended up on this hill where we couldn’t go any further because of the downed power lines,” said Chief Petty Officer John Wayne Long, a Seabee with the Amphibious Construction Battalion Unit 2. “We sent up a group of Marines to see what was ahead because we couldn’t touch any power lines, out of nowhere this Marine pops up fresh haircut, sergeant rank and sleeves rolled perfect, his entire uniform was clean and he asked me if he could help.”
Jackson began assisting with transportation and guiding service members through the chaotic environment by escorting them through paths cleared of debris for transportation and assisted in passing food and water to victims of the hurricane.
“I asked who he was, and he said he was a local Marine, and I was like there is no way he is a Marine when the Marines have been out here for days covered in dirt,” Long said. “But he was one-hundred percent a Marine, so I asked him if he had a vehicle and if it was possible to put a chainsaw in his trunk because one chainsaw broke and we needed it to clear debris from the roads. We went around the island to do some more clearing and ended up finding a school and clearing out the debris.”
Jackson’s actions and initiative, according to Long, are exactly what was needed to accomplish the mission on time. From his initial route clearing mission, Jackson continued to support Marines on the ground by guiding them through the streets he calls home.
“He is exactly what the Marine Corps is supposed to be,” said Long. “Ready to act at any time, he put on the uniform and went to work.”