News: MFE Marines steady shaken Turkish earthquake victims
Story by Gunnery Sgt. William Price
TRONDHEIM, Norway -- Marines from Marine Forces Europe returned to Norway, Nov. 12-14, to begin a second round of disaster relief for thousands of citizens in Turkey's Van province, which was recently devastated by two massive earthquakes.
Utilizing the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway, the humanitarian assistance mission shipped more than 28,000 pounds of cold weather gear, including 110 sets of 10-man Arctic Cold weather tents, space heaters and fuel cans.
MCPP-N was first envisioned and began development in the early 1980s as a program to store air and ground supplies for supporting forward deployed forces, cold weather exercises, and training in the European theater. As the program evolved, it was extended to respond to crisis by providing humanitarian assistance.
Through a concerted effort by U.S. European Command, Blount Island Command, Headquarters Marine Corps, the U.S. Embassy, the Government of Norway, and the Norwegian military, the MFE team based out of Stuttgart, Germany, overcame the logistical challenges of coordinating this support.
“These two recent HA missions for Turkey show the quick response of MCPP-N in partnership with the NDLO/MEB [Norwegian Defense Logistics Organization/Marine Expeditionary Brigade],” said Neil Hagen, HQMC, Prepositioning Analyst and CGI contractor, stationed in Oslo. “The close relationship we've built over the years enabled it to occur as effectively as it did. Knowing what we had in the caves, determining what could support the need in Turkey, and doing it over a weekend, twice in two weeks, showed the effectiveness of our ashore prepositioning program here in Norway.”
When the Marines from MFE landed at the Vaernes International Airport, in Trondheim, Norway, Nov. 12, they were met by Hagen. From there, their plan was put into action. The team wasted no time.
With the gear already being staged at the prepositioning caves, Marines arrived at the Tromsdal Cave, early the morning of Nov. 13. Navigating treacherous iced-over roads, they met with the Tromsdal Cave inspector, who loaded the trailer truck with space heaters to combat plunging temperatures in eastern Turkey, currently well below freezing nearly every night.
“When there is a catastrophe, we will do whatever it takes to help,” said Einar Tromsdal, who has been running the cave since the inception of the MCPP-N program in 1988. When asked if the weather has ever been a factor throughout his tenure, he joked, “All Norwegians are born with skis on their feet!”
With the space heaters loaded, the prepositioning team from MFE drove to the Frigaard cave to oversee the loading of the tents and fuel cans. The Marines and their Norwegian counterparts ensured the gear was meticulously weighed, measured and secured on palettes.
“We work closely with the Marine Corps, specifically Blount Island Command. We are in daily contact,” said Maj. Kjell Mathisen, NDLO/MEB, executive officer. “For this joint partnership to be effective, it is important for us to be like a family. While we are normally closed on the weekends, to help the Turkish, we pulled the trigger and everyone was on deck to help.”
Once all the equipment was loaded, it was shipped to the airfield in Vaernes, where all the parties involved would meet the following morning for loading on a U.S.Air Force C-130, from the 37th Airlift Squadron, based out of Ramstein, Germany.
With a pressing deadline to meet, the Marines and Norwegian soldiers assembled five standard Air Force pallets for embarkation, and prepared load plans. When the C-130 arrived, the pallets were neatly aligned, netted, weighed and ready to load for an on time and on target C-130 bound for Erzurum, Turkey. Once in Turkey, these much-needed relief supplies would be distributed to the areas most heavily impacted by the earthquake.
“It is crucial that all the gear is loaded properly, and done so the first time,” said Sgt. Paul Evans, MFE Embarkation chief, and Bakersfield, Calif. native. “We don't want to overload the aircraft, or load it unbalanced, otherwise it will either leave late, or even worse, gear would have to be left behind.”
The Marines and Norwegians worked expeditiously that morning to palletize the gear efficiently, knowing they had to get it right the first time. With minutes to spare, the U.S. Air Force Europe aircraft was loaded and "wheels up," on its way to provide housing and warmth for thousands of Turkish citizens in desperate need.
“This mission was a varsity effort all around,” said Maj. Tim Robertson, an MFE logistics and planning officer, and Corcoran, Calif. native. "Special thanks to the Norwegians who worked so hard over the weekend to ensure this mission was a success. The timely actions by all involved have eased some of the suffering in Turkey. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of this recent disaster.”
“Overall, I felt it was a very successful operation,” Paul Evans added. “Normally we conduct training exercises, but taking part in a real-world effort and to help people in need makes me even prouder of what I do.”