News: You, Me, and Irene: Deployed service members and families prepare for Irene
Story by Spc. Timothy Koster
BAGHDAD – As Hurricane Irene begins its path up the east coast, service members and contractors deployed to Iraq are doing whatever they can to ensure the safety and well-being of their families living in the storm’s path.
According to early Saturday morning reports Irene has already hit the coast of North Carolina, causing power outages and significant property damages.
"Of course we have a lot of service members whose families are in the area. Our concerns are for them as well as all Americans impacted. We'll do all we can to support them,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffery Buchanan, senior official spokesman for United States Forces – Iraq.
Despite being thousands of miles away from home, those deployed to the New Embassy Compound in Baghdad have been doing all they can to prepare their families by making sure they purchase enough groceries, batteries, water, and other items essential to prepare for an emergency.
“I talked with my wife last night to find out what they have done to prepare for the storm and made sure she has communication with people who can help,” said Lt. Col. Willie Harris, chief of media
outreach, USF-I, and a Petersburg, Va., native.
One of the most difficult things about being overseas during a potential natural disaster is the fact that those deployed here cannot physically reach out and touch their belongings as the storm, which is reported to have up to 100-mph winds, passes over their homes.
“I am worried about my son and I am worried about my home,” said Erin Dunn, a civilian contractor and a Chesapeake, Va., native, “It’s hard because, even though someone is living in my home, he is planning on being out of town this week.”
Preparing for this potential natural disaster involves more than just stocking up on supplies, but also ensuring the long-term protection of family members and personal belongings.
“We have reviewed our insurance policies to make sure we are covered,” said Sgt. 1st Class Keith Smith, Joint Shop-9 Operations non-commissioned officer in charge. Smith has family living in New Jersey and North Carolina.
Although the storm has been downgraded to a category one storm, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream could intensify the storm, and everyone on the east coast should take the necessary precautions.
"Don't wait. Don't delay," said President Barack Obama in a recent press conference. “I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now.”