Twister Tangles Communication Lines at MCLB Albany

Nathan Hanks

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Everything went “dark” at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany after an EF3 tornado struck, Jan. 22.

Although the twister touched down at 3:20 p.m., it tore through the installation’s warehouse district triggering a base-wide blackout, knocking out power and disrupting communications with the outside world.


After assessing the damage Jan. 23-24, a tactical solution to temporarily fix the communication between MCLB Albany Headquarters and the warehouse district was requested, according to John Scholl, branch chief, Operations Branch, Communications and Information Systems Division, MCLB Albany.


“The Marines of II Marine Expeditionary Force G-6 and Communication Company, Headquarters Regiment, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, (Camp Lejeune, North Carolina), have displayed their prowess and competence as Marine communicators,” Scholl said. “The Marines leaned into the mission; they planned and prepared for multiple ‘be-prepared-to’ missions as Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany Communications and Information Systems Division assessed and developed courses of action.” 


He credits Chief Warrant Officer 2 Isaac Jewson, telephone systems officer, Comm. Co., HQ Reg., 2nd MLG, with the support in planning, designing and implementing the tactical solution that was critical in the unit's expeditious deployment. 


“They immediately surged to terminate multiple critical fiber optic cable runs and began erecting the transmission system antennas,” Scholl added. “They successfully installed all necessary tactical systems and have maintained them throughout our recovery efforts.” 


Scholl also acknowledged 1st Lt. Kyle Repetti, detachment commander, Comm. Co., HQ Reg., 2nd MLG, for his efforts in leading the detachment.


“(His) leadership of the detachment has been noteworthy as he effectively organized his team to work concurrent critical mission requirements while keeping his command and the MCLB Albany officials informed,” he continued. “The Marines of Communications Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group responded fast and with great energy to come to MCLB Albany's assistance; the unknown did not faze them or their planners/leaders. They proved to be an expeditious communication organization.”


According to Repetti, the Marines received their orders the evening of Jan. 25. They departed Jan. 27, arriving at MCLB Albany late the same evening.


“I knew Albany was hit by a tornado but I did not know the extent of the damage,” he said.


For the next 96 hours, the Marines assembled and tested their equipment.


“(Our) responsibility is to maintain the network connectivity between MCLB Albany Headquarters and the warehouse district,” Repetti said. “The Marines provide Internet, email and access to information applications through routing and switching equipment, telecommunications and several radios on elevated masts.


“Without our transmission piece and without having the link between the (headquarters building and warehouse district), they would be sitting in the dark,” he added.


It’s awesome to see the Marines in their natural environment, Repetti stated.


“We do a lot of training in the rear but it’s not very often that we get deployed and actually get hands on the gear for real-world operations and it’s even rarer when it occurs in the U.S.,” he continued. “The Marines are disciplined and they know their jobs.”


Since their arrival, the Marines have established routine monitoring and maintaining their gear to ensure the communication link between MCLB Albany headquarters building and warehouse district is working.

However, there is one item they have no control over -- the wind.


“Every once in a while we’ve had to take the towers down due to high winds,” Repetti said. “If the wind becomes too strong, it becomes a hazard not only for the equipment but also for the Marines.”


He indicated, this is his first real-world operation.


“It’s interesting to see what it is that we as communication Marines do for the Marine Corps,” he concluded. “Our job here would be no different than if we were forward deployed. Our job is to connect two points so they can communicate with each other.”