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Homeland Security

NAS Meridian Seabees Restore Base Functions

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050916-19
Release Date: 9/16/2005 2:08:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class Sybil McCarrol, Naval Air Station Meridian Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION MERIDIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian’s Disaster Preparedness Crew, comprised of Seabees, has been working day and night to restore a level of functionality to the base and its community since Hurricane Katrina hit the area Aug. 29.

The Seabees prepared in advance for the hurricane’s arrival and were already receiving local residents displaced from Florida and Louisiana two days before the storm hit the Gulf Coast.

“We mainly had folks from (Naval Air Technical Training Center) Corry Station, Pensacola, that Saturday before all the action began,” said Utilitiesman 1st Class Darren Lomen, one of the personnel assigned to the watch at the base Evacuation Center. “The floodgates didn’t truly open until Aug. 30, two days after the hurricane had hit the Gulf Coast, passed through Meridian and moved on. Then people really started checking in, and we became super busy.”

The Seabees had already set up approximately 1,500 cots for incoming displaced people in the Naval Reserve Center, the Combined Bachelor Quarters (CBQ) and the Starbase Atlantis schoolhouse.

Numbers swelled as more people and their families from the Gulf Coast region checked on board. At one point, NAS was temporarily housing 990 people displaced to the base by Hurricane Katrina, including employees working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

While the Evacuation Center was manned 24/7, the Seabees arranged working parties to clean up fallen trees, limbs, debris and power lines around the base.

One day was spent delivering 5,000 pounds of ice to families in base housing, the CBQ and other base facilities when a FEMA ice truck broke down.

The crew spent another day-and-a-half setting up the 750-bed Federal Medical Contingency Station on the NAS flight line. They worked with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) to set up the facility, which was designed to receive overflow patients from Gulf coast hospitals.

“I have seen six hurricanes, and was evacuated in ‘96 from NAS Key West to Coco Beach when Hurricane George hit,” said Lomen. "I didn’t lose anything but was basically at the mercy of the folks of Coco Beach, and luckily they were very, very kind to us. That experience taught me how to treat people in need.”

Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) (AW) David Dollins, NAS Meridian Disaster Preparedness Officer, praised the hard work of the NAS team and thanked Seabee reservists who are currently lending some extra muscle.

“I couldn’t ask for a better, harder-working group of Sailors,” said Dollins. “I trust these guys as professionals to make decisions in my absence, and that is an attribute that I can’t measure in dollars.

"Even as the activity slows on base and the population of displaced residents has greatly thinned, there is still much work to do," added Dollins. "The Seabees have worked constantly, without complaining and I have every intention of making sure they are rewarded for their outstanding efforts.”

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