NEW YORK -- Marines are amphibious in nature. It’s one of the things that set them apart and above any other fighting force in the world; a legacy of spilled blood, hard fought and hard won ground on beaches a world over. But not every beach landing they make is for the purpose of carrying warfare to a foreign country.
Sometimes, they put that capability to work to help the people of America themselves in our own homeland.
Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit landed in Rockaway, a neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., to assist with disaster relief operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The area was savaged by the storm; entire blocks ripped off their foundations, alleys and streets clogged by the remnants of houses and porches. “It’s a horrible sight, and I feel bad for all the people that live here. I know it takes a toll on them,” said Lance Cpl. James Partain, an engineer from McDonough, Ga. with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 3/2, currently reinforcing the 26th MEU. Power lines are out, streets are washed out, and until recovery operations began, three feet of standing water covered the entire area.
But clean up operations have begun. Marine 8th Engineer Support Battalion, stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., began pumping water out of the drowned area as soon as they were able. Marines from the 26th MEU landed today to assist by clearing out the debris clogging alleys and streets, breaking up larger pieces of detritus with axes and chainsaws and moving the remnants into piles along the roads to get collected. “It’s makes us feel great, all of us out here helping out. We’re happy to do it,” said Partain.
“What we’re doing is offering these pump teams mobility into those areas. Whether that be moving things out of the way so they can access it, or whatever the case may be, we’re ensuring that they can get to those pump sites,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Holland, engineer officer from South Bend, Ind. with BLT 3/2.
Marines worked with locals from the area to help restore access to flooded areas for the pump teams to clear. “It feels good. One team, one fight; we’re happy to be out here working with other branches of the military,” said Partain, referring to the sailors from the amphibious support ships USS Wasp and USS San Antonio, as well as a detachment of national guardsmen, who also provided assistance in clearing the debris. “Being able to work with the other branches of the military is an honor that is somewhat rare. To come out here and not only work with them, but to work towards a common goal of restoring the community to the state it was is an exceptional opportunity,” said Holland.
The 26th MEU is able to provide generators, fuel, clean water, and helicopter lift capabilities to aid in disaster relief efforts. The 26th MEU is currently conducting pre-deployment training, preparing for their departure in 2013. As an expeditionary force operating from the sea the MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations.