SAN FRANSISCO - U.S. Marine Sgt. Ivan Garcia said coming home for duty might be a bit more meaningful for him than for the average Marine serving at San Francisco Fleet Week 2012.
Garcia, a native of Fremont, Calif., who’s stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and a group of his fellow unit members from Combat Logistics Regiment 1, landed in San Francisco Oct. 3 and kicked off their portion of Fleet Week with a static display of logistical and tactical vehicles and equipment at Marina Green, Oct. 5.
The Marines’ mission at Marina Green is to show visitors the capabilities and assets Marines have when it comes to logistical support during disaster relief and humanitarian assistance operations.
“As Marines, we need to be ready for any contingency no matter what it is,” said Capt. Sarah Culbertson, Combat Logistics Regiment’s future operations officer and regimental engineer. “It’s important that we show the world our capabilities.”
More importantly, Garcia said the logistical support the Marine Corps offers can be the assistance a city could need if a natural disaster were to occur.
“We’re here to help people know that Marines are not just a fighting force. We’re the one’s who could provide aid and support to whoever needs – whenever they need,” Garcia said. “By showing them our vehicles, our equipment and explaining to them our capabilities, it helps them visualize what we’re able to do.”
Garcia serves as a motor transport operator, driving armored tactical vehicles when training or while deployed overseas. He said luckily, his unit was chosen to represent the Marine Corps at Marine Green Oct. 5 at the static display – concurrent to the air show.
He takes his mission at Fleet Week very seriously, he said. He knows firsthand just how important having quick responding humanitarian assistance means when disaster strikes. Garcia was 5 years old when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake shook the Bay Area. He lived just miles away from the epicenter.
Garcia said his most vivid memory of the devastation is running out the door with his mother and sister, as his TV, dishes and wall units came crashing down in his house. With a surface-wave magnitude of 7.1, he said he couldn’t even stay standing as the family waited outside his house for the 15-second quake to end.
“I remember seeing trees and telephone poles down all over the place. Cars crashed into each other. It was crazy,” Garcia said. “We couldn’t go north. We couldn’t get up to Oakland because the highways were closed and the Bay Bridge went down.”
According to online records, the earthquake killed 63 people, injured more than 3,000 and left thousands more homeless.
Garcia said it took months for his city to recover. He shares the story with his fellow Marines to this day.
“Marines should understand that a ‘force in readiness’ doesn’t necessarily just mean a force ready to fight a war,” Garcia said.
“We’re a force that’s ready to come at a moment’s notice to help and provide humanitarian services. If someone’s down, Marines will be there to help, especially back at home.”
Most of Combat Logistics Regiment 1 is supporting the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for Fleet Week by providing the static display support. Units like the 13th MEU are one of the Corps’ most prepared landing forces when it comes to humanitarian aid operations, amphibious task force operations and combat operations. Two of the 13th MEU’s sister units, the 22nd and 24th Marine Expeditionary Units, were the lead landing forces during humanitarian aid operations in earthquake-stricken Haiti in January 2010.
“We can get to any country in the world,” Garcia said. “The vehicles that we have, such as the 7-ton trucks and the [logistic vehicle system replacements], can provide the best humanitarian services by bringing in medical supplies, food and shelter.”
Garcia said one of the highlights of Fleet Week he’s waiting for is to see his family when they visit him at the static display on Marina Green Oct. 6.
“I’ll also be able to explain to my family what [the Marine Corps’] capabilities are,” Garcia said. “It makes me happy knowing they’ll be a little more at ease as far as getting support if disaster were to strike. They know that the Marines and the sailors would be right here at a moment’s notice.”
Aside from showing the Bay Area community what the Marine Corps and Navy has to offer, Garcia and his Marines said they’re enthusiastic to see what San Francisco has to offer them as well. Garcia said merchants and the city’s people have welcomed the Marines and sailors graciously.
Culbertson, a Chicago native, said she also expects her Marines to have a good time in the city when they have the opportunity.
“It’s a great time to interact with the public,” she said. “We’re in an amazing city with a lot of amazing people. “We came out here with a great crew and we want San Francisco to meet them.”