Note: These Harvey posts are a bit long and lack grammatical fine tuning! I wanted to get these stories out for all our supporters before I forgot it all! Thanks for reading.
First of all, I want to thank everyone for their prayers and financial and logistical support for our team. We didn’t even ask for money, but some of our friends took the initiative. With the money we were able to fund fuel for several vehicles (and leave fuel at a donation drop point for their generator), buy supplies, and gave us one night in a motel to refit before continue on. With the leftovers we are now working out how best to use it for potential disasters from Irma.
It was an amazing effort to be a part of. None of the stuff we did was “heroic”. None of it was pulling people out of swift waters, burning buildings, life-saving medical techniques, etc. We were just part of the thousands and thousands of people who came to do what they could to help. I like to think that it is what most normal people would do given the resources and time. We did do some boat operations, but most of what we did over the week was work with some amazing people doing escort, security, logistics, and supply drops. Because so many people were supporting us, I wanted to make sure I could tell the story.
What we experienced in Texas can best be described as chaos. Sure, there was the type of chaos that comes with physical danger (flood waters, etc.), but most of the chaos we experienced was just the craziness that comes with such an enormous disaster: the thousands of rescuers that descended on the area, skies filled with military aircraft, people wandering the streets with all they have on their backs, fuel shortages, driving contraflow on interstate highways, everyone was armed and nobody was asking questions, retail parking lots turned into landing zones and staging areas, the information and rumor overload (“THE LEVEES ARE ABOUT TO BREAK” was the phrase of the week), etc.
One of the Marine Corps mottos is “Toward the Sounds of Chaos” (ironically I worked as the Marine Corps Advertising Operations Officers where I helped develop slogans like this). In the Marine Corps context, it is largely speaking of danger, violence, and war. But it is also talking about friction like natural disasters and humanitarian crises. What we saw in Houston was thousands of ordinary men and women, many from other states, descending into the chaos area to help however they could. I don’t believe that is an anomaly, that is what most Americans would do if they had too. I saw a meme that said “Average dude with a boat: hero to Texans.” On point. However, what was also amazing was to see the large number of veterans that not only descended to the area but also formed impromptu task forces like mine.
The military, particularly the Marine Corps and combat arms branches of other services, specializes in chaos. From basic training, regular exercises, and combat deployments, military members are trained to deal with chaos and the “fog of war” (or in this case “fog of disaster”). Perhaps we are just crazy enough to want to go toward chaos when it comes, but that ability and willingness really doesn’t have to do with just being “brave”. It comes with a lot of training and a lot of trust. The leadership principles the military instills in its members are very helpful in situations like Harvey, especially: decisiveness, judgment, initiative, and tact. Further, most members are trained in first aid, safety, and other special skills that come in handy. Being veterans (or in our case current reservists) also opens up a lot of doors to work with law enforcement and other officials in ways normal civilians cannot. Many of them are veterans themselves. When you say you are a Marine Corps Officer, that automatically gives a certain level credibility. Lastly, veterans can build trust with one another much more quickly. There is already a level of inherent trust there anyway. I barely knew Jeff before this week, but I trusted him with my life if the situation arose. This trust and experience allowed teams like ours to form as almost militia units. We ran into and heard of other teams operating similar to our team. There was an informal chain of command, by nature of rank and age. We ran convoys like a military convoy, conducted recon, had briefings, gave safety briefs…it just happened because it is our nature. It was truly an incredible experience.
Monday 28 August
I was sitting in Las Cruces, New Mexico with my sister, brother, and grandmother on vacation. We were glued to the news watching Hurricane Harvey. We are all native Texans and I was born and raised in the Houston area. I was incredibly distracted by it all. As I continued to watch my friends in Southeast Texas post about the storm and watch the incredible stories on social media, such as what Mattress Mack from Gallery Furniture was doing to help people, I was very moved. After I heard about the catastrophic flooding that would last for days, all I could think about was getting down there to help. Not only am I a Marine, but I am an experienced recreational boater, trained in combat life saving (CLS), current on CPR/AED/First Aid, a survival swimmer (CWSS) in the Corps, and my primary job in the Marine Corps is Assault Amphibian Vehicle Officer (armored tracked vehicles that swim ship to shore) and know something about water safety, boat navigation, and recovery. I just had to do something.
I posted on Facebook
Wes Jagoe: Are there any Marine reserve units deploying to Houston? Anyone know how an IMA [Individual Mobilization Augmentee] can volunteer?
A fellow Marine Corps Reservist I work with, who resides in Austin, replied:
Jeff Broaddus: Wes Jagoe you got a boat? I’m a peace officer [Buda, Tx], EMT and CWSS [Combat Water Survival Swimmer]. I’m chomping at the bit. Same question.