On Oct. 23, 2011 a 7.2 magnitude quake leveled about 2,000 buildings in eastern Turkey, a longtime ally and NATO partner. More than 500 people were killed, 2,500 injured and thousands left homeless.
In support, a team of Marines and personnel assigned to U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, grabbed their gear and flew to Trondheim, Norway, to link up with their Norwegian military counterparts.
Since 1988, the Marine Corps has partnered with the Norwegian military to operate and maintain the Marine Corps Pre-Positioning Program-Norway. MCPP-N provides the Marine Corps a responsive source of equipment and supplies to enable the rapid closure of Marines into the U.S. European Command area of responsibility and enables operations in Europe and throughout the globe.
Its location in the vicinity of Trondheim provides quick access to intra-theater lift via road, rail, air and sea ports of embarkation for the movement of approximately 1,200 pieces of rolling stock, in addition to supplies and ammunition.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Turkey. In this time of need, our Marines responded magnificently, as did our Norwegian partners, assisting us with the withdraw of critical relief supplies from the caves in Norway,” said Brig. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, MARFOREUR deputy commander. “The ability to respond at a moment’s notice is a critical capability that we provide to the EUCOM commander and is inherent in our ethos and way of life.”
The team of five Marines and one civilian hit the ground on Oct. 30, assessed the situation at the MCPP-N caves, and with the assistance of their Norwegian counterparts, withdrew and manifested 369 10-man cold weather tents, space heaters with stands and fuel cans, to the tune of more than 91,000 pounds of gear within 24 hours.
The MCPP-N facilities, which consist of six different cave sites, provide 671,000 square feet of modern, climate-controlled storage for the Marine Corps and are managed by a Norwegian workforce.
Through a concerted effort by MARFOREUR, Blount Island Command, Headquarters Marine Corps, the U.S. Embassy, the Government of Norway and the Norwegian military, the MARFOREUR team overcame the challenges of coordinating this rapid support over a weekend with no advanced notice. Working with MCPP-N’s Norwegian military personnel, they supervised and loaded the equipment onto tractor trailers for movement to the Vearnes International Airport in Trondhiem.
With a pressing deadline to meet an early afternoon arrival of a U.S. Air Force C-17 bound for Turkey, the Marines pre-staged the gear at MCPP-N facilities at the Vaernes International Airport the following morning, where they built 16 standard Air Force pallets for embarkation and prepared load plans.
When the C-17 arrived, the pallets were neatly aligned, palletized, netted, weighed and ready to load for an on time and on target C-17 bound for Erzurum, Turkey, where these supplies would be distributed to those areas most impacted by the earthquake.
Due to changes in the global force posture, MARFOREUR is working with HQMC, Blount Island Command and the operational forces to evolve MCPP-N from a Marine expeditionary brigade -based construct into a more relevant prepositioning program that can support day-to-day operations in the EUCOM and AFRICOM theaters, to include security cooperation activities, while also maintaining a mid-level crisis response capability.
“U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, must continue to be ready to fulfill its role as the in-theater agent, tasked with responding to the geographic combatant commander’s requirements and operational intent in times when specific forces are not assigned to a mission that presents itself at a moment’s notice,” said Michael Harvey, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, pre-positioning officer. The earthquake in Turkey comes at a time when those left homeless are being subjected to the harshness of the impending Turkish winter.
“The Marine Corps is sending the same message to the world that’s been a part of our motto for the past 235 years and that’s ‘Semper Fidelis,’ meaning always faithful. The Marine Corps has always been true in coming the aid of our fellow brothers and sisters when they are in need and also dutiful in completing the mission, no matter what’s it is,” said Gunnery Sgt. Wesley Key, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe, Strategic Mobility chief. “The victims of this most recent earthquake in Turkey are in need and the Marine Corps will live up to its motto and answer their call.”