MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The ceremonial turn of four shovels of dirt yesterday at the abandoned 10th Marine Regiment headquarters marked the start of a five-year effort to rebuild Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Stations New River and MCAS Cherry Point following the devastating impacts of Hurricane Florence nearly two and a half years ago.
Maj. Gen. Julian D. Alford, commanding general, Marine Corps Installations East – Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Rear Adm. Dean VanderLey, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Atlantic, Walter E. Gaskin, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and George Rogers, chief executive officer of RQ Construction, LLC were joined by local and state government officials, as well as military, civilian and contractor representatives to commemorate the occasion.
Since the hurricane struck, the installations have already spent nearly $825 million of $1.7 billion earmarked for facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization. Now they are set to spend $1.15 billion on 31 military construction projects across the three installations to replace 45 buildings damaged by Florence. The projects are grouped into seven separate packages, each averaging between $250 million and $300 million apiece. Five of those packages encompass projects at Camp Lejeune with the remaining two at MCAS New River and MCAS Cherry Point.
At a breakfast prior to the groundbreaking, U.S. Navy Capt. Miguel Dieguez, assistant chief of staff for Facilities and Environment, MCIEAST-MCB Camp Lejeune, described what lies ahead for the bases. “Over the next five years, you will see construction on an epic scale. It’s going to be a pretty exciting place to be.”
More importantly will be the improvements made on these buildings to withstand future weather events like Florence. “Following the 2018 hurricane season, the Department of Defense came away with a lot of lessons learned,” Dieguez said. “We’ve changed our building standards to sustain what are more common extreme destructive weather events.”
Dieguez explained that strict building codes will be enforced in accordance with a DoD-wide construction standard called Unified Facilities Criteria.
“There will be more robust structural requirements,” he said. “You’ll see more metal roofs on buildings than we’ve ever had. Hangars will no longer have vertical lift fabric doors. They’ve got to be metal doors so the multi-million dollar aircraft we’re putting inside it will be there when the hurricane passes.”
Dieguez said the funding will also provide opportunities to perform much-needed enhancements on utilities infrastructure, to include hardening of electrical substations, burying power lines underground, and installing remote monitoring systems at wastewater lift stations.
Turning to Alford, U.S. Navy Capt. Jim Brown, commanding officer of the Office in Charge of Construction Florence, summed up the importance of his command’s role in the base’s recovery. “You are our customer and we’re here to deliver combat power. This installation is that platform. We need to return it back to what it was, and in the process, make it better, and more lethal than what it was before. We will endeavor to do that.”