Marine base has huge impact on region

Guest columnist

Tom Connelly

Tom Connelly

When thinking about the Marines, the picture of large-sized muscular men loaded down with gear storming the beaches in some distant land we're at war with, as enemy artillery shells explode all around, comes to my mind. When a conflict takes place, the Marines are the first of the four services to deploy to that location. Furthermore, they remain there until the task is completed. These courageous professionals are the embodiment of the most physically demanding of the four services.

Since fitness is such an integral part of the Marine Corps, as it is the pure war-fighting branch of the military, members exercise on a continual basis. These warriors participate in physical conditioning on a daily basis, and undergo semi-annual physical fitness tests. Regarding the latter, it consists of three-mile runs, pull-ups and abdominal crunches.

Marines also regularly train for their combat fitness tests. The assessment consists of three events: movement to contact, ammunition lift and maneuver under fire, all of which are designed to simulate the rigors of combat.

Civilian employees of MCLB-Albany are very disciplined, too. During one of the Gulf wars, I can remember a friend who works at MCLB calmly informing me that he was working in a warehouse six days a week, repairing vehicles 12 hours a day. And repair they do. At the Marine Depot Maintenance Command, a very wide assortment of military ordnance, motor transport, engineering and more are repaired or remanufactured. Examples of the items they work on include assault amphibious vehicle, light armored vehicle and mine resistant ambush protected vehicles. This team of professionals maintains in excess of 400 master work schedule lines, producing 18,000 pieces of ground combat and combat support equipment, annually.

The presence of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany is a high point for the Good Life City, as well as for this portion of the state. According to the December 2012 edition of Georgia Trend magazine, Albany's MCLB is one of Southwest Georgia's largest job creators. Another source indicated that approximately 2,900 civilians and 400 military personnel work there, creating approximately a $1.4 billion economic impact.

MCLB positively impacts the community in other ways, too. Col. Donald Davis, base commander of the facility, has instituted a number of initiatives which enable the community to interact with the Marines and learn more about what these elite professionals do.

Among these events are the Mud Run and the K9 for Warriors run. The former event, which takes place in the fall, consists of a run through a quarter-mile trench filled with water above the knees. Upon exiting that, a person has to charge up a steep embankment with the aid of fire hoses attached to spikes, then jump over a waist-high barrier, and run a two- to three-mile obstacle course

In the latter event, the 2013 K9 for Warriors, held in early January, participants included Maj. Gen. Chuck Hudson, commanding general of Marine Corps Logistics Command, and Col. Davis, plus almost 250 runners. Gen. Hudson ran the 5k race, and Col. Davis served as emcee of the event. Col. Davis cheered his troops as they approached the finish line and announced the winners during the awards ceremony. The purpose of the run was to assist a local veteran in getting a service dog through the K9 for Warriors organization.

As base commander, Col. Davis has also worked on a number of other initiatives. Among them are (1) attaining the title of Net Zero installation; (2) encouraging the civilian Marines to maintain healthy lifestyles and (3) possibly transferring the local VA clinic to the base.

Regarding the first point, in 2009 the Secretary of the Navy charged that 50 percent of Navy and Marine bases need to be Net Zero by 2020. MCLB-Albany is endeavoring to fulfill that requirement by producing as much energy on the premises via renewable energy generation or from renewable fuels there, as it consumes in its buildings and facilities. Among the main energy initiatives since 2005 are the installation of a 1.9 MW landfill gas-to-energy generator (with another generator to be installed in 2013), and a solar water heating system to be used for the barracks. MCLB is working on finding contractors who are interested in producing electricity from a large-sized biomass operation.

Col. Davis has also worked with The Albany Herald to introduce a column in that paper to highlight the positives in the community. As Col. Davis, who was the featured speaker at the YMCA awards banquet in early March, told the crowd, he wants to accentuate the positive by recapturing the narrative that is dominated by the negatives expressed in The Squawkbox. Davis worked closely with officials of The Albany Herald. He credits them for their willingness to hear his idea for a positive column opposite The Squawkbox.

At the same event, Col. Davis informed the audience that he is working with the YMCA to allow youths living near the base to play sports such as soccer and basketball on the base.

For those interested in learning more about MCLB Albany, visit the base's website, www.albany.marines.mil.

Tom Connelly, MS, CRC, has lived in Albany for more than 20 years. He is a member of the AARC Advisory Board.