OKINAWA, Japan --
U.S. Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force came together across U.S. installations located on Okinawa, building camaraderie during recovery efforts post-Typhoon Khanun. The storm battered the island for several days in August 2023, and Marines used the opportunity to lean on their family-abroad.
“The community is coming together do a cleanup,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tsaiann Murray, an embarkation specialist with III Marine Expeditionary Force G-4. “Everyone is coming together to make the base safer. We did prepare the base in advance of the typhoon; we’re all coming together as a team and unit to do what’s necessary.”
The typhoon’s first pass over the island brought 111 mile per hour winds beginning Tuesday, August 2, and gained strength throughout the week. Damaged power lines left more than 220,000 homes without power, limiting communication between personnel across the installations. III MEF however, remained resilient, coming together to restore homes, facilities and utilities as soon as Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness - Recovery was issued.
“It’s a very great experience with both Okinawa and the Marine Corps cooperating with each other,” said Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Dugger, a motor transportation maintenance chief with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. “The Marines are taking care of the bases and making sure their Marines and families are safe, doing what we need to, to help keep our community safe and clean.”
By Wednesday, areas throughout the island were experiencing flooding, minor landslides, and extensive housing and vehicle damage. Across the island, homes lost access to running water or were given water boil advisories.
[blockqoute: “Being a Marine, our job is to help others. We fight and win wars, but when we’re not actively engaged in combat, we’re doing our best to help our community and make sure it’s safe.”: Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Dugger, a motor transportation maintenance chief]
U.S. Forces Japan implemented maximum telework throughout the duration of the typhoon to ensure the safety of all personnel. The 18th Wing Commander did not direct Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness All Clear until the evening of August 6th – when the brunt force of the storm was over.
Upon all clear, Marines throughout the bases began immediate recovery efforts to return the installation to normal operations.
“I like going around the base and making sure it looks nice and presentable, so me being a part of this cleanup allows me to make sure the base gets back to where it needs to be which I’m really proud of,” said Murray, a Dallas, Texas native. “This is related to a lot of teamwork, there’s a lot of leadership here also and it comes into play where rank doesn’t matter when we do stuff like this – everyone pitches in to do their part.”
“My Marines have supported Camp Courtney and its outlying areas quite a bit with recovery services during the typhoon,” said Dugger, a Pensacola, Florida native. “After the typhoon, picking up trees, picking up debris, restoring power services. We even assisted the commissary here for restoring electricity and some lights.”
This was not Dugger’s first typhoon experience, and he mentioned how recovery services are a collaborative effort.
“In Okinawa, I’ve seen that many citizens don’t rely solely on emergency services to clean up, you have residents cleaning their own neighborhoods, Marines cleaning around the bases, people doing things for themselves to help their community,” said Dugger. “Everyone does their part, which also assists emergency services personnel get things back in order, it’s a great collaborative effort.”
Photo by Cpl. Alora J. Finigan
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Kamm, left, a transmission systems operator, and Lance Cpl. Ali Fish, right, a data system administrator, both with Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, load a fallen tree into a USMC 7-ton on Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Aug. 7, 2023. Typhoon Khanun moved through Okinawa as a category 4 hurricane equivalent storm, bringing strong winds, heavy rain, and high waves, marking one of the strongest storms to affect the island in recent years. Immediately after the storm, crews from across Marine Corps Installation Pacific and III Marine Expeditionary Force began assessing damage and initiating repair work to ensure the Marines on Okinawa remain operationally ready. Kamm is a native of Concord, California, and Fish is a native of Adel, Georgia.
Lance Cpl. Corey Calkins, a motor vehicle operator with Headquarters Company, 3rd Marine Division, mentioned that he felt proud to be a part of the clean-up and to work alongside his fellow Marines.
“Having so many Marines with various jobs really shows what the Marine Corps is about and displays that we have great teamwork skills,” said Calkins, an Auburn, New York native. “This clean up applies to the selflessness trait that each Marine possesses; we are here for each other 100 percent of the time, no matter what – I feel closer to the Marines to my left and right than I do my own family because I’m with them day in and out.”
While some Marines and their families may not have previous experience with typhoons, Marine Corps Installations Pacific has an established procedure and a strong system in place to take care of the personnel here during these emergency weather situations.
Satellite Transmissions System Operator Lance Cpl. Cutter Lust with Communications Company, 3rd Marine Division, said assisting in the recovery efforts was a bonding experience.
“I feel great helping someone else, cleaning up and making it a safer place,” said Lust, a Sunray, Texas native.
For many Marines, this is their first time away from the United States and family for support. But that doesn’t mean they handle these situations alone.
“The support that comes from your family back at home is a lot different, being that you’re further away from people that you grew up with, especially here now at an overseas station,” said Murray. “The support you get from your brothers and sisters near you on base is a lot different because you are in it together. Whatever situation you’re going through, you’re experiencing it as a team and as a unit. It’s a closer bond, you lean on each other more because we’re a lot further from home, so you lean on the ones to the left and right of you.”
Living in a host nation, Marines and Sailors with III MEF have a responsibility to our Allies, partners, and one another.
“Being a Marine, our job is to help others,” said Dugger. “We fight and win wars, but when we’re not actively engaged in combat, we’re doing our best to help our community and make sure it’s safe.”