Navy Seabee Who Assisted Sandy Victims Remembers Help He Received After Katrina

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael

GULFPORT, Miss. – When Construction Electrician 1st Class Eric R. Montag detached with his Seabee shipmates assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 from their homeport in Gulfport, Miss. to provide disaster response assistance to the people of Hurricane Sandy affected areas in New Jersey and New York in early November, he had a pretty good idea of the fears and emotions that those people were dealing with.

Montag, a native of Klamath Falls, Ore., was living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina plowed through in 2005. 

“I spent six weeks with no power,” said Montag.  At the time, Montag was assigned to NMCB-7, also in Gulfport, Miss.  He spent two weeks cleaning up the Gulf Coast in the immediate aftermath, but he and the other Gulf Coast Seabees weren’t alone. 

“The entire NCF (Naval Construction Force) was helping out.  There was CBMU (Construction Battalion maintenance Unit) 202, the National Guard, West Coast Battalions, Spec War; It seemed like everyone from everywhere was helping us out,” explained Montag.

When Montag received the call that he would be needed to provide assistance in the northeast, he felt like he was returning a favor.

 “Once we got the word I was hoping I’d be one of the ones that went,” said Montag, “so I had an opportunity to help someone else out after going through a bad storm myself.”

While clearing debris, putting up tents, and dewatering, Montag was relating with the residents whom he was assisting.

“I talked to several residents and city councilmen about my experience with Hurricane Katrina and how we overcame things over time,” said Montag.  “I think being able to relate to them based on our similar experiences helped give them a sense of hope that they would come out alright.” 

The stress and anguish felt by his community following Hurricane Katrina is something that Montag remembers all too well.  This shared experience of loss gave Montag a personal interest in the communities he was assisting in the northeast. 

“The hardest part was telling them that they couldn’t go into their homes to get stuff because it was too dangerous,” said Montag.  “That really upset the homeowners and storeowners, and I feel bad for them.”

Montag and his NMCB-11 shipmates provided assistance in some of the hardest hit areas of New Jersey and New York for roughly two weeks.

While most of the NMCB-11 Seabees who traveled to the northeast United States to aid in disaster response of Hurricane Sandy are simply too new to the Navy to have been a part of the response to Hurricane Katrina, there are many still serving who were part of the post-Katrina response.

History has proven that Seabees are eager and ready to come to the aid of those in need.

Fresh off a successful eight month deployment to Afghanistan, NMCB-11 is focusing on training and tactical exercises to prepare for their next deployment less than a year away.

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