News: NAS Pensacola personnel evacuate, return home
Story by Nathan Hanks
ALBANY, Ga. - More than 3,900 Marines, Sailors and Airmen from Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., arrived here Monday afternoon to escape Hurricane Isaac’s impending landfall between the panhandle of Florida and the Louisiana Gulf Coast.
Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 evacuated Sunday due to the hurricane’s projected path, according to Col. Robert Sherrill, commanding officer, MATSG-21.
“The storm surge is expected to be 6 to 12 feet,” he said. “If this happens, our Marines, Sailors and Airmen that live down in the low-lying part of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola would have been in the danger zone.”
Sherrill said MCLB Albany has been the perfect safe haven.
“Everyone has been great here at MCLB Albany,” he said. “I mean from the on-base personnel to the Civilian-Marines, everybody we have dealt with has been great, very hospitable and really have bent over backwards to help us.”
Col. Don Davis, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, said the base stands ready to support evacuees when needed.
“We are glad to be able to provide a safe haven for our fellow service members who will be relying on us in this time of need,” he said. “MCLB Albany hosted military evacuees from NAS Pensacola in 2005 where they stayed here for about 21 days.”
Wednesday marked the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall along the Gulf Coast.
“MCLB Albany activated the base Emergency Operations Center Monday to closely monitor the evacuees’ transit, arrival and coordinate the Marine’s, Sailors’ and Airmen’s stay,” Bob James, senior watch officer, EOC, said.
The evacuees from MATSG-21 arrived in two groups. An advance party of about 200 people arrived Monday evening while the second group of nearly 4,300 arrived later that same evening in a convoy of more than 80 buses. The buses were guided by Marine Corps Police Department police officers to the base’s warehouse district.
“We have a standing Memorandum of Agreement with MATSG-21 and have met with them several times throughout this year regarding a potential evacuation,” James said. “We have worked hand-in-hand with them to ensure their students and staff members are well taken care of.”
Tropical storm and hurricane warnings were posted for portions of the northern Gulf Coast as the hurricane continued its west-northward march through the Gulf states.