MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
When torrential rains and flooding destroyed the food and water supplies of a small Iraqi village and leveled many buildings, one hope for the people to get their lives back together was nearby; a Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit responded to this very training scenario Aug. 21-24 during the MEU’s first at-sea period. Members of Combat Logistics Battalion 11 sprang into action and made a ship-to-shore movement with the equipment and personnel needed to mitigate the suffering of the Iraqi people.
Within hours they set up a distribution site, a medical facility and a tactical water purification system (TWPS), capable of purifying ocean water and making it safe for consumption, said 1st Lt. Douglas Pugh, HAO site commander.
“The first thing we did when we went into the town was ask ‘What can I fix and how do I make this work better for the town,’” said 1st Lt. Katie Rowbotham, the initial response team commander and Anoka, Minn. native.
Though prepared to help in any way they could. There are some things that CLB-11 could only plan for once they were on the ground talking with the locals.
“We intended on providing humanitarian rations, water and basic medical aid, said the St. Paul, Minn. native. “Upon getting to the site we discovered that the villagers had a great need for shelter, blankets and baby formula.”
While the upper echelon worked with headquarters to get the needed supplies brought in via helicopter, the Marines and sailors did everything to help the more than 300 villagers that were in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
The medical personnel treated patients constantly for three days. They saw everything from cuts and headaches to broken bones.
“We dealt with many illnesses common to a flood and had to treat them accordingly,” said Hospitalman 2nd Class Elias Flores, from Lodi, Calif. “Having a limited numbers of interpreters was difficult and we had to use our hands and expressions to communicate sometimes.”
While medical coverage was a large aspect of the humanitarian operation, it wasn’t everything.
The engineers of CLB-11 had their hands full building shelters for the villagers, draining the standing water and repairing the electric wiring.
The training also tested the on-scene commander’s ability to work with members of a village council, which often include local religious leaders or Imams and Sheiks.
“Having a strong relationship with the Sheik and village council gives you credibility with the town,” Pugh said. “When we go to the Sheik it reinforces his credibility with his people.”
After many long hours, hundreds of patients treated and fresh water flowing freely to the villagers, the Iraqi’s were back on their feet. As quickly as the Marines and sailors setup their life-saving camp, they broke it down and made their way back to their ship to wait until called upon again to be America’s 911 force in readiness.