Naval Special Warfare Pulls Together to Help Evacuees of San
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michelle L. Kapica,
Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs
Calif. (NNS) -- As wild fires threaten Southern
California for the third straight night, the Naval
Special Warfare community is working tirelessly to
help those families who have been evacuated find
some comfort and shelter.
At least 34
Naval Special Warfare (NSW) active-duty personnel
and their family members had arrived as of Oct. 23
at Naval Air Station North Island. They were
received at a makeshift emergency shelter located
within Special Boat Team 12's Mark V boat hangar at
the northwest end of the base. More families are
expected to arrive Oct. 24 as the fire spreads and
thousands of more homes are evacuated in the
southern and northern parts of the county.
usually houses Mark V boats used to carry Special
Operations Forces, primarily SEAL combat swimmers,
into and out of operations. These boats have been
moved out of the hangar to make room for the
displaced families. Now, green military cots line
one side of the hangar, while the center is
dedicated to toys and a play space for children.
civilian volunteers have been working around the
clock to assemble the cots, and provide blankets,
games, toys and everyday essentials to evacuated
families. Partitions are also being erected to
provide some privacy at the shelter.
"We're just trying to
keep everybody as comfortable as we can right now," said
Laura Meer, a military spouse and volunteer at the Mark V
Not all of the
volunteers at the hangar are adults. Some military children
are also lending a hand, entertaining the younger children
with magic shows and doing what they can to help.
"Our older children,
who are Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts here in Coronado, have
stepped up to help out," said Meek. "We're just pooling all
our resources. Within about half an hour, we had play mats
and all of us pulled this stuff together."
Volunteers have even
been watching the children to give parents time to either
shower or just relax for a moment after the stress of the
wonderful, especially the wives," said Shannon Valles, an
evacuee who will spend a second night at the shelter with
her family of five. "They came in and brought toys for the
children. That I think above all has been the biggest help.
They came in last night and set up a projector so that the
kids could watch a movie. They brought in blankets, pillows
The Valles family
chose to voluntarily evacuate from their home in Chula
"As soon as we heard
they were suggesting a voluntary evacuation, we loaded up
and came here," said Valles. "We brought pictures, important
papers, and a couple of day's worth of clothes and medicine
– just the stuff that we had to have."
Rear Adm. Garry J.
Bonelli, deputy commander, Naval Special Warfare Command,
visited the facility and spoke with evacuees about what they
needed to make their stay as comfortable as possible.
"I think the Naval
Special Warfare community has always been a family and at
times of crisis like this with the fires here in San Diego
County, we have really come together," said Bonelli.
Bonelli said he was
impressed with the service members and volunteers at the
Mark V hangar who had transformed it into a shelter
"To see young kids in
there playing basketball, watching movies and seeing all the
pets in the Mark V facility is something that wasn't
envisioned, but it's a good facility to do that kind of
thing," said Bonelli.
Capt. Thomas L. Brown
II, commander, Naval Special Warfare Group 1, also toured
the facility with Bonelli.
"I'm really happy
with the way that the individual team members and families
came together with the ombudsman and the family support
network," said Brown. "I think it has worked out great so
With the Santa Ana
winds whipping through the San Diego sky, the fires are
quickly spreading to heavily populated communities and many
more areas expect to be under a mandatory evacuation soon.
"We've got to be
ready," said Brown. "At some point the families helping
other families will be overwhelmed. Some of the families
that took in families are in areas that are now threatened
by the fires, so that's my biggest concern."
"We do have
contingency plans in place," said Bonelli. "Based on the
cedar fires we had four years ago, and the hurt it put on
the NSW family, I think we did a much better job in planning
for it and we're very well prepared this time."
up to 60 more NSW families may need to use the shelter over
the next few days and are continuing to improve the living
For more news from
Naval Special Warfare, visit www.navy.mil/local/nsw/.