GULFPORT, Miss. -- A detachment of Marines and a sailor from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Pendleton, Calif., helped members of the American, British and Spanish Red Crosses to salvage a warehouse decimated by Hurricane Katrina here. The warehouse will be used as a distribution point for food, water and other essential supplies to be distributed by the relief organization.
The detachment came from the MEU Service Support Group-11, who are part of a larger contingent of approximately 400 Marines and sailors who came to help in the Gulf Coast.
The Marines and sailors were working to restore the luster to Gulfport and local cities by helping local public works personnel in repairing plumbing and damage to broken water, gas and electrical lines in homes.
The 11th MEU, along with elements of the 24th MEU, Camp Lejeune, N.C., and elements of the Marine Corps Reserve Forces are part of a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force, operating under Joint Task Force Katrina, which is tasked by United States Northern Command to support the Mississippi National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other local authorities with logistical and operational support.
The service members had been in Mississippi only two days before being called upon by FEMA to support the Red Cross volunteers. The crew from MSSG-11 first had to clear the warehouse of debris and rubble left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"We're preparing a warehouse so that the Red Cross can utilize it to better serve this community," said Cpl. Robert Schrock, landing support specialist, MSSG-11. "Any little bit we can do to help make their lives a little easier is what we’re here for."
Juanjo Del Pozo, Spanish Red Cross volunteer and logistics director, said his five Red Cross volunteers were very grateful for the much needed assistance.
"We're very lucky to receive help from the Marines. They are fit for this exact purpose," said Pozo.
According to Pozo, because of the assistance provided by MSSG-11, the Red Cross can better focus their efforts on the most affected areas of the city.
In less than four hours, the servicemembers cleared the 150,000 square-foot building of crumbled cinder blocks and stagnant water left by the terrible storm. After they were finished, the warehouse was left immaculate and with plenty of open space to allow tons of canned goods, bottled drinks, clothing, diapers, and miscellaneous household goods to be stored and distributed.
"We love having the Marines here. I hope we can have them here to help for at least a month," said Jim P. Bush, American Red Cross volunteer, who is expecting to work 20-hour days loading and unloading supplies.
According to many of the servicemembers interviewed, they will always remember and be very proud of the help they provided to repair some of the storm's damage.
"We don't get a whole lot of opportunities to help out the American people directly," said Schrock. "This gives you a sense of fulfillment. It can't be put into words."