MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Human beings depend on three basic needs: food, water and shelter. Natural disasters, armed conflict, and famine can strip people of these necessities and threaten the lives of millions.
When these tragedies occur, support from nations throughout the globe can take weeks. However, Marine Expeditionary Units use their amphibious capabilities in the air, land and sea to provide assistance much quicker to austere and remote places of the globe.
July 6-14, 2012, more than 200 Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 13, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, the logistics element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, trained for humanitarian assistance operations, mass casualty evacuation, and noncombatant evacuations aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Marines and Sailors of CLB-13 spent the first half of the week learning from instructors with Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force. They learned how to conduct security searches, set up a humanitarian assistance operations camp, and interact with local populations.
“My guidance is to improve our training from what we’ve learned,” said Gunnery Sgt. Roger Jones, operations training chief with CLB-13. “We can discover our shortfalls, make small internal improvements and create a plan for future training. If they don’t understand why they do things the right way, they will not utilize the methods as well and not pay attention. We do this so they won’t fail the mission. These Marines are hungry for training. They are also farther along now than many CLB’s when they chop to the MEU.”
The last half of the week involved practical application. Before the main element of the CLB set up a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief camp, a humanitarian assistance survey team arrived on site near Las Pulgas Area to survey for suitability and safety.
“I have to ensure we have what we need to work with, and what we can or cannot do at the site,” said Lance Cpl. Kirk Daroci, an electrician with CLB-13 and a member of the HAST. “As a member of the HAST we also look for places nearby where we can purify water. We look for flat terrain and a site that is clear of hazards or dangers.”
The CLB set up the HAO camp in accordance with United Nations humanitarian assistance guidelines. Large tents were set up to provide places to conduct security searches, distribute rations and shelter the homeless. Water purification hydration specialists purified water. Heavy equipment operators transported supplies and necessities to the temporary HAO camp. Motor transport operators ferried personnel to and from training areas. Combat engineers constructed security barriers. Many provided security and over watch to ensure the safety of the site.
The devastation caused by natural disasters can cause injury and death. Destroyed infrastructure and loss of life can breed illnesses and make life harder on the local population. Corpsman and Marines practiced mass casualty evacuations to prepare themselves for the gruesome reality of this happening.
“We have to be ready to treat a variety of ailments,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Polage, a corpsman with CLB-13. “We might encounter diseases in some countries that we don’t see in the states. We are here to provide first aid and send them to the next level of care if need be.”
Some Marines dressed in jeans and T-shirts joined hired Filipino-Americans as role players to bring a higher level of realism to the training. They used the HAO Camp and participated in the processing. During mass casualty evacuation training the role players donned fake blood and simulated being injured. The role players also cooperated and helped prepare the CLB for noncombatant evacuation operations or NEO.
A NEO may be necessary when armed conflict and natural disasters endanger the lives of Americans and allies living abroad. These incidents can prevent them from evacuating a country safely. The CLB practiced identifying role players, searched them for hazardous materials and guided them to extraction sites.
Lt. Col. George W. Markert, commanding officer of CLB-13, is familiar with the needs and expectations a CLB provides. In 1995, within a couple weeks of checking into his unit, a young 2nd Lt. Markert was sent to Guantanamo Bay Cuba to support Sea Signal, a humanitarian assistance operation for Cuban and Haitian refugees.
“This care we are practicing is absolutely the same kind of care I would want my family to receive in a disaster,” said Markert. “We are training to that standard. One of the things we teach here is that you’d treat the victims like you’d treat your grandma, daughter or sister. You have to essentially become more sensitive to their needs in what is going on.”
The CLB now has the training necessary to coordinate with an American Embassy to identify, protect and transport thousands of people to warships off the coast or to nearby countries.
This training marked one small part of a large pre-deployment training schedule. The CLB is currently supporting training at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport, Calif. As months go by, CLB-13 Marines and Sailors will become more ready and reliable to execute the kinetic missions 13th MEU supports.
When CLB-13 deploys with the 13th MEU next year, where they travel and the missions they support remains unknown. However, the Marine Corps is the nation’s crisis response force of choice and the 13th MEU is ready to act whenever and wherever needed to save lives.