MCB CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
“I realized I wasn’t prepared for a hiccup like this, I had only snacks and a gallon of water,” said William G. White, an off-duty assistant chief with the French Creek Fire Station, Fire and Emergency Services Division (FESD), Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune.
On Sept. 3, 2023, when the mechanism to turn the swing bridge leading from Onslow Beach to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was down for nearly five hours, White knew just who to call, his fire captain.
When the main driving piston underneath the bridge had sheared from its mount, it left the bridge unable to turn with approximately 2,000 Marines and civilians stuck on the beach.
During this time, White observed an elderly couple stressed about getting to their medications and a mom worried how to feed her baby without formula. Questions were looming in the air by many on how they would get home.
Base maintenance had exhausted their resources and were unable to get the bridge in place. That’s when White called Brandon S. Longo, the French Creek Fire Station Captain with FESD, MCB Camp Lejeune, from the beach to bring a rescue truck and see if there was anything Longo could do to fix the bridge. After getting the call, Longo promptly made his way over and then drove a boat underneath the bridge to reach Onslow Beach.
“There’s no emergency backup or manual override under the bridge, especially when one of those big pistons break, Longo said. “There’s no way to turn it.”
Longo picked the biggest hydraulic ram he had on the truck, maneuvered it under the bridge where the sheared piston was made his own manual override by turning it. The ram is primarily used for vehicle extrication, pushing or lifting heavy items. Longo just thought a tool is a tool and tried out the idea given his knowledge of the equipment.
Around 6 p.m., Longo was able to get the bridge mechanism in place, allowing cars to drive back from Onslow Beach to Camp Lejeune.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be trapped over there,” said Longo. “I know they were happy to see that bridge start turning.”
According to Longo, bridge moving isn’t specifically a focus in the fire station’s training, but he can give credit to the experience he has and knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the equipment he used.
“I enjoy being involved in out of the ordinary calls and emergencies. Never been in the bowels of a bridge before,” Longo laughed. “It was definitely unique, but fun at the same time.”
Longo is to receive a Letter of Appreciation from Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune for his shrewd actions at the bridge that helped those stranded on the island return home safely. From those who needed their medications, baby formula and other essential items, to those who were just inconvenienced, there was gratitude and reassurance in the selflessness of the FESD on MCB Camp Lejeune.
In Longo’s 19 years of serving the Marines, Sailors and civilians on MCB Camp Lejeune, he’s never quite dealt with a task like this one before. Though it’s a feat he could have bragged about, Longo thought of it as just another day and he was happy to help.
“I’m just glad I can be the go-to guy,” said Longo. “If someone calls for help, I’m on the way.”