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Homeland Security

CNRSE Supports Island Evacuation

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110902-02

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Greg Johnson, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Southeast (CNRSE) assisted in the evacuation of 350 people from Andros Island Aug. 23-27 in response to Hurricane Irene.

The Bahaman Island is home to the Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), a research facility that conducts research on undersea warfare. CNRSE and AUTEC leadership coordinated efforts to evacuate the island before the Category 2 storm made landfall Aug. 24.

"The primary mission for operations and emergency management is to preserve life," said Capt. Robert Wylly, CNRSE operations officer. "One of the most obvious ways to accomplish this in the path of an approaching hurricane is to evacuate. CNRSE, working with AUTEC and the reserves, ensured that this happened some 36 hours prior to Irene's arrival. We were glad to help coordinate the successful operation."

Evacuees were transported to West Palm Beach, Fla. with two C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 62 and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 58. In addition, two torpedo retriever boats were temporarily moved to Naval Air Station Key West.

While AUTEC does not fall under CNRSE command, it was still a CNRSE responsibility to assist, said Cmdr. Pete Antonacci, CNRSE current operations officer.

"They're part of the Navy family, and we were happy to extend our hand out to them," he said. "We are always concerned about the welfare of our Sailors and their families, and we are prepared to help anyone in any way we can."

As an undersea warfare command, AUTEC has limited air assets, making it impossible to quickly evacuate a large number of people. According to John Furness, CNRSE air operations director, CNRSE was well-suited to assist because it possesses both the aircraft and the experience to respond to an evacuation scenario.

"We are staffed with the right people and technical experts who are experienced with hurricanes and hurricane evacuation," he said. "The amount of experience we have makes it easier for us to accomplish our mission in this kind of situation."

Evacuees returned to the island Aug. 27 on the same aircraft used to evacuate. The storm caused minimal damage and AUTEC immediately resumed normal operations.

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