Marine evacuation training saves lives, gives hope
CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan -- When American citizens or select individuals need to be relocated from a hazardous environment, the U.S. government can use military equipment and personnel in coordinating noncombatant evacuation operations, commonly known as NEO. From 1975 to 2014, the U.S. has participated in more than 19 of these key missions, rescuing distressed peoples from multiple countries plagued by war or natural disasters.
Marines and sailors with 3rd Marine Logistics Group participated in NEO training in preparation for future operations Aug. 21 at the Central Training Area, Okinawa, Japan.
"The first thing we did when we got here was set up our evacuation and control center, which consists of a dismount point for the evacuees to exit their vehicles," said 1st Lt. William G. O'Neal, a logistics officer with Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd MLG, III Marine Expeditionary Force. "Next, we brief and search them, then escort them to a staging area where they will receive medical attention and food or water while we arrange their transportation."
In a real world situation, two primary functions must be taken care of before the evacuees are ushered through the evacuation center and escorted to safety.
"We have the capability to provide our own security, but normally we are deployed with a ground combat element that can provide that security for us," said O'Neal, a McKinney, Texas, native. "Then we would use marshalling teams to go out and search for evacuees who would bring them to us, and we would begin the process to evacuate them out of the area."
Training for non-combatant evacuation operations is important because, as the past has proven, Marines may be called upon at any moment.
"Liberating noncombatants is something we are well trained for and one good example was in 2006 when the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit went into Lebanon,"said O'Neal. "We perform this mission on a global scale, so I think it is integral to the Marine Corps because as an expeditionary force, and our nature of being amphibious, we have the capabilities necessary to help people no matter where they are."
To increase the realism of the training, a group of Marines role played as evacuees with various problems.
"We tried a few things to mess with the Marines like not cooperating, (having) elderly or pregnant females, people that do not speak English and a husband and wife who were fighting," said Lance Cpl. Tyler M. Culp, a Holt, Michigan, native, and a bulk fuel specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 3rd MLG. "Being a role player was really helpful because you get to gain perspective being on the other side of things. When you are thinking like (an evacuee), I think that greater level of understanding helps us do our jobs better."
As a Marine, it is important to remain flexible and retain the ability to adapt to any situation, according to Lance Cpl. Lucas J. Sprankle, a motor transportation specialist with CLR-3.
"I would say the greatest challenge for the Marines here is that this is wildly different from our primary job which is mostly truck driving," said Sprankle, a Reno, Nevada, native. "I think this training is really good because it keeps us well rounded and reminds us that this is a very real (situation)."