In less than two days the Corps of Engineers amassed an army of experts from five districts and one battalion to assess hurricane damage and repair critical infrastructure at the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, North Carolina.
Forty-three paratroopers from Fort Bragg’s 27th Engineer Battalion arrived at MOTSU in less than 12 hours from their execution order in response to damages caused by Hurricane Florence.
The Soldiers, who belong to the 161st Engineer Support Company Airborne, had “blades in dirt” only hours later, according to their Commander, Capt. Elizabeth Betterbed, who proudly declared they were now part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Task Force MOTSU.
“We’re an Airborne Engineer Support Company,” she said. “We’re designed to jump in and repair airfields.”
But instead of airfields Betterbed’s team is moving massive amounts of dirt on MOTSU in order to repair roads, berms and other areas where flooding and erosion disrupted the infrastructure.
The Corps’ Savannah District is leading the effort to provide the services needed to bring MOTSU back to full capability in the shortest amount of time practical.
“We’ve already completed all the damage assessments,” said Col. Daniel Hibner, Savannah District commander.
Those assessments require an immense coordinated effort that involves inspections of the perimeter sector, rail lines, bridges, wharves, buildings and roads. “We’ll soon be executing contracts to help complete the work that needs to be done,” said Hibner.
The Corps maintains a battle-tested mission command and brings to bear the full spectrum of contingency response.
“We are proving that we are the right organization to respond in the wake of natural disasters,” said Hibner. “No other agency can do this.”
In fact, beyond MOTSU recovery the Corps of Engineers was entrusted with 33 FEMA mission assignments in response to Florence, totaling more than $17 million. Some of these missions include temporary emergency power, debris removal, water and wastewater assessment, temporary roofing, and dam safety technical assistance.
In all of these missions Corps officials have uniformly declared that their number one priority is the life, health and safety of all those impacted by the storm.