Hurricane Sandy Recovery Effort

Jan 8, 2013

NEW BERN, NC (pre) - On Saturday November 3, the 8th Engineer Support Battalion out of Camp Lejeune left for New York and New Jersey. Sergeant Ramlal of the 8th Engineer team might be the only marine of the 88 who has experience. Sergeant Ramlal was stationed in Okinawa last year when mainland Japan was devastated by the tsunami.

"I was part of the task organization unit that sent Marines over to evacuate, so I have experience as far as what gear is needed, and how much it will take to have the operation happen, but coming home, and having it happen here in our home town, it's a lot different because it hit home a lot more, to speak to the fact that it's now happening to us."

Ramlal grew up in Queens and although he is stationed at Camp Lejuene, he lives in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

Sgt. Ramlal has been helping operate water pumps, and clearing debris for the past two weeks. We spoke with him last Thursday evening, the 8th.

"We started cleaning the streets up today, and sanitation crews had started coming in and sweeping the streets, and we're planning on bringing in equipment to clean the sand and stuff like that but a lot of it is slow going, block by block."

The Department of Defense asked the Marines of Camp Lejeune to go down and help with relief efforts, and Camp Lejeune then chose the Eighth Engineer Support Battalion for the job. They were picked for their specialties. They are a team of combat engineers, bulk fuel specialists, motor transportation marines, and communications marines. Public Information Officer for the Battalion, Lieutenant Tim Irish says many of the Marines volunteered to go.

We spoke with Lieutenant Irish on the 8th to find out what they'd been doing during the previous five days. Lt. Irish is originally from Rochester, New York.

"A lot of it has just been driving down the beach seeing where the Marines can help the most, and then they go attack at clearing alleyways, with shovels by hand, and working hand in hand with the Department of Sanitation here in New York City."

The Marines worked mainly in in Far Rockaway, a borough of Queens, and one of its neighborhoods, Breezy Point. Irish says they started on Sunday morning the 4th in Far Rockaway pumping water out of homes, and apartment complexes. They're pumping water from homes back into the ocean using 150 and 600 gallon per minute water pumps. Lt. Irish says the pumps are a 24-hour operation.

"So once those are set up and in place to pump water back out from people's homes and common areas back into the ocean they're left to run over night with a Marine to stand watch on them."

Irish said the Marines were given orders to help with pumping water out of homes, but says much of the work also involves giving residents assistance in any way they can.

"Residents are working as hard and as fast as possible to get items out of their home that were water damaged and to rip dry wall down and that's where the Marines come in they're not actually entering anyone's homes, but they are going and helping residents, where need be. move that debris out of the alleyways, out of the streets, so that construction vehicles, sanitation trucks, what have you, can move into the area and continue the pace of the cleanup."

The Marines are also working with the city and other relief organizations, such as FEMA, to find out where they are most needed. They've also been led by the relief efforts to essential resources, such as gas.

"There' s not a day that goes by that you won't see a Marine that's walking up to a police officer or a firefighter, and just seeing what needs to be done where."

At the end of the day they sleep at a local Marine Reserve Unit in Brooklyn, which they've also been lent, to run their operation.

We spoke with another Public Information Officer for 8th Engineer Support Battalion, Lieutenant James Stanger on Wednesday morning. That morning they were pumping water out of homes, and clearing roads.

"The Marines were focusing a lot on route clearance, basically getting in between the houses here, some of the houses are pretty close together, there was a lot of debris, from my understanding, when they first arrived here, it was very cluttered, and their was a lot of debris and they did an excellent job again in conjunction with FEMA and Northern Command, and everyone else that's working here. They did an excellent job at consolidating a lot of the debris, to then be moved consolidation, or dump sites."

Stanger said after the mornings work New York's Department of Sanitation took over the last phases of the cleanup.

"We've actually basically ceased operations here, they're now essentially going back to our staging point, cleaning vehicles, maintaining the fleet of vehicles that we brought up here, cleaning out the pumps that we've used, all in order stage them, probably some more cleaning tomorrow, and after that point, like I said, we'll be departing to go back to Camp Lejeune."

The Marines are departing soon. Lt. Stanger tells me there is still a lot of work to be done on the island, but after the morning's work on Wednesday, the marines left Breezy Point and went back to The Marine Reserve Unit across the bridge. They're now cleaning their tactical vehicles and water pumps, and will soon be returning to North Carolina. © Copyright 2013, pre