Sailors Come to Aid of Neighbors Affected by Hurricane Sandy

By Lt. John Ripley, U.S. Navy Public Affairs
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (Nov. 4, 2012) Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, stationed out of Gulfport, Miss., use a forklift to move a speedboat that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy during relief efforts in Seaside Heights. NMCB-11 is operating under the U.S. Northern Command Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission, working closely with civil authorities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron/Released)

LAKEHURST, N.J. (NNS) — While all members of the military contributing to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts can take pride in their work, many are helping their neighbors recover from the disaster.

Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Dionne Chambers, a native of Brooklyn, has spent long days working the relief efforts at points all over New York City and the coast of New Jersey. Chambers, a member of Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 22, said she was shocked when she first saw her hometown.

“To me, it was like triage,” she said, with military trucks and personnel partnering with local, state and federal officials to manage the efforts. While her family lost power and has had trouble finding gasoline, they managed better than many others, she said.

Chambers, like her shipmates, arrived as part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Adaptive Force Package (AFP), which deployed Seabees, divers, Coastal Riverine Force and other assets throughout the New York-New Jersey corridor at the request of state and federal agencies to provide immediate response following Hurricane Sandy.

Ensign Matthew Wanamaker, a Reservist attached to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 21, volunteered for an active-duty assignment to contribute to the hurricane recovery efforts. Wanamaker, whose parents still live in his native New Jersey, fared well overall despite being in the direct path of the storm. “They got really, really lucky,” he said. “A few blocks away it got really bad.”

Several years ago, Wanamaker rode out a brutal storm from his apartment in Virginia, only to see military personnel come in after to help with cleanup and recovery. That, it turned out, was the impetus for joining the Navy.

“One of the reasons I got into this job was to do disaster relief,” Wanamaker. “Years later, I got the opportunity to come help in an area where I grew up, so I jumped at the chance.”

Builder Constructionman Mickhail Taylor of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 had his duties take him back home, as well, working on projects at Floyd Bennett Field in his native Brooklyn and nearby Breezy Point in Queens.

“It felt kind of strange to come home to help with the disaster,” he said, adding that his mother had described the damage to him during a telephone call. “When I really got here and saw it for myself it was really sad.”

Those feelings of sadness, however, were outweighed by the community campaign to clean and rebuild the areas. “I get a sense of hope because all the people come to try to help with the clean up,” he said.

For those who returned home to serve as part of the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, the hard work and dedication to the cause comes with an added benefit: an immense feeling of pride by their families
and neighbors.

“My being here means someone else gets to stay home with their family,” said Wanamaker. “I came out of this okay, so I’ll help out where I can.”

For Taylor, residents of the affected areas would often ask where he was from; when he answered “Brooklyn,” they would offer gratitude for a job well done and say, “Thank you for coming home to help us.”

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