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Photo by Cpl. Ruben D. Calderon

BLT 1/4 accomplishes mission, leaves Louisiana with sad, joyful memories

20 Nov 2007 | Cpl. Ruben D. Calderon 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Every day began at 5:30 a.m. for the men of Company C, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Every day, they’d find themselves waking up in Slidell Jr. High School’s gymnasium. This is the place where “Charlie Company” called home for five days while they provided support for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort here. Having completed their mission, they would soon be going home to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. But not before one more silent run around the local neighborhood.The humid, dawn skies were still purple with rays of orange coming from the East of the Mississippi River. In formation, the Marines first marched. Then, quiet footsteps turned into hushed cadences and muted stomps that could barely be heard throughout the sleeping district. The warriors of BLT 1/4 wished not to be a burden to the people. Instead they wished for the opposite. This is how the infantry platoons would start their day before going “house to house” to clear homes and businesses of debris, rubble, ruined furniture or any other waste left by the unrelenting storm. As the sun began to rise over the wrecked Louisiana town, so would Charlie Company. The platoons would mount onto their 7-ton trucks and high back Humvees to be transported through fallen neighborhoods, littered streets and into homes decayed by rough winds and flooded waters.With chainsaws, machetes, and axes in hand, the Marines and sailors would give a quick glance at each other and without saying a word would get the job done. According to Patti F. Roberson, victim of Hurricane Katrina, about 95 percent of the homes here were damaged by the storm. BLT 1/4 cleared more than 80 homes and business during their short but fulfilling time here. To get support, locals would come to the junior high school and request help from the battalion or go to their local officials who would compile a list and submit it to the Marines. The Command Operations Center would then combine the walk-on and city list into one. Scrolling down, checking the names one-by-one, BLT 1/4 would fulfill the requests in the order they were received.“It was a good day for us when the Marines showed up,” said Roberson, whose home was flooded and is now forced to sleep at her place of business. “Their assistance and presence was much needed!”she said.Roberson and other residents said they remember the first few days of the aftermath as bleak. “I’ve been through a couple of hurricanes but this is the worst that I have ever seen,” said Slidell Police Department Detective Alan E. Roy.Roy said he remembers the scene vividly, he was on the second floor of the police department when the storm hit. “The winds were going more than 150 m.p.h. It was howling! Roofs of homes and trees were flying through the sky,” said Roy. “After twelve hours, the storm stopped and we walked through the streets in search of survivors.” Roy said he was amazed by the total devastation he saw. “There was nothing left of some homes,” he said. “They looked like little pixie sticks.”The Marines and sailors of 1/4 described the aftermath in similar terms. “I was at a loss for words. I remember seeing people walk around with nowhere to go. It was so sad,” said Cpl. Gabriel Espinoza, machine gunner, weapons platoon.“It literally looked as if 40-foot trees were yanked off the ground and thrown into peoples homes. Some homes were left destroyed because of it,” said Staff Sgt. Luis A. Santini, platoon sergeant, 3rd platoon. “That’s what a lot of our work here was, removing fallen trees from peoples’ homes and properties, as well as debris.”And the Marines did plenty of it. They chopped up and removed trunks of trees from rooftops and sullied lawns. They removed useless household goods and whatever they could do to help. “Families would come out of their homes crying, overwhelmed and happy that we were helping them,” said 2nd Lt. Jason Bullis, platoon commander, 3rd platoon. “It was a good feeling for all of the Marines, including myself. I was blown away. I remember a lady here said to us, ‘The Marines have landed.’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am. Yes we have.’” Although it was a short deployment, the Marines and sailors of 1/4 left with a feeling that may never be topped. “It was hard work going into their homes. Not only doing the physical stuff, but it was hard and emotional to see the people lose everything they had,” said Lance Cpl. Joey Trinidad, mortarman, weapons platoon. “But it’s rewarding to help my country. This is why I joined the Marines. This is what I love doing.”

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarr enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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