Although Hurricane Florence made landfall over three months ago, Marines at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, and MCAS Cherry Point are still recovering. From working in comprised facilities and temporary trailers to repairing damaged homes, the military community is facing daily challenges.
“We’ve been seriously impacted by this storm,” said Major General Coglianese, Commander, Marine Corps Installations Command (MCICOM), in a statement on 17 December. “We can’t afford it [recovery] internally – we will need some additional money. We’re doing this wisely, and we’re not trying to… fix things that do not need fixing – we just want to fix the things that are broken.”
On 12 December, General Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified before Congress and discussed the need for $3.6 billion in appropriated funds to repair installations impacted by Hurricane Florence. Thirty-one new military construction replacement projects and demolition efforts will cost approximately $2 billion. Repairs to existing buildings will cost $1.3 billion. The remaining $300 million will fund the replacement of destroyed IT systems and other repairs.
“On the facilities and structures for us, if you were to repair it, it would be one number – but if you take the buildings that we would consider to be not worth the cost of just repair but that they need to be rebuilt, the total bill comes to about $3.6 billion,” said General Neller.
MCB Camp Lejeune, MCAS New River, and MCAS Cherry Point heavily contribute to Marine Corps readiness and MCB Camp Lejeune is home to the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF), which oversees and maintains a third of the Marine Corps’ combat operating power. Several headquarters buildings, training facilities, and aircraft hangers were affected by Hurricane Florence. II MEF is now able to meet operational commitments, but training environments remain degraded.
“When you are not able to train as hard and as long and fly as … many hours as you require to maintain a substantial training level that makes you qualified based on current standards, yes … that’s a risk,” said General Neller.
At MCB Camp Lejeune, Hurricane Florence caused erosion above Onslow Beach’s waterline and into the dunes, limiting available training space for amphibious operations. Rail line damage at MCB Camp Lejeune prevents II MEF from utilizing this mission-critical transportation capability for deployments and redeployments.
MCICOM conducted a thorough damage assessment and economic analysis to determine which facilities required replacement, repair, or demolition. Roughly 800 buildings across the three bases have been compromised. About 500 of those buildings were severely damaged, several of which are incapable of being occupied. Approximately 3,000 military personnel and 1,000 on-base family members were displaced. The average age of facilities on these bases is between 40 and 50 years old, with some over 70-years-old.
“The storm was very slow-moving, there was a lot of wind … and it rained for two or three days … a lot of the buildings at Camp Lejeune were very old, they suffered roof damage, exterior damage,” said General Neller.
Nearly 70 percent of the 6,200 homes at these bases also sustained some level of damage. MCICOM and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) continue to advocate on behalf of residents with the privatized housing partners to establish, communicate, and execute home repair plans.
Although Marines adapt and overcome challenges on a regular basis, this recovery will take years to complete given the hurricane’s magnitude. The safety, security, and well-being of service members, veterans, civilians, and their families is central to the Marine Corps’ mission. MCICOM is dedicated to protecting installations, strengthening resilience, and supporting the military community.