Fightertown aids Katrina relief efforts

15 Sep 2005 | Cpl. Anthony Guas

Though Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast - more than 700 miles from Beaufort - its effects are felt here as the Fightertown community has answered the call to help those in need.

In an effort to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Tri-Command Military Housing have made some changes to their policies to allow families to live in the Lowcountry until their homes are restored.

Fightertown recently released Air Station Bulletin 11101, which grants Basic Allowance for Housing Own Right for members with families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The bulletin pertains to members in pay grades E-5 and below.

The intent of the policy is to take care of those in need, and is not to be used as an opportunity for financial gain or to defraud the government, according to the bulletin.

“The service member will have to move out of the barracks and live with their family,”  said Mary Ellen Smith, the director of housing here. “Also, they can only live there as long as their family is still here.”

So far, the Air Station has moved one Marine and her family into a home. Corporal Christy Corb, a flight equipment technician for Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, and her family recently moved into a house at Laurel Bay.

“I think that this is really great,” Corb said. “I really didn’t think that they would give it to me. I was shocked when they approved me for BAH.”

Although Corb’s family evacuated the day before Katrina hit, they were still surprised at the outcome, according to Corb.

“We really didn’t expect it to be that bad,” Corb said. “My family went to Birmingham, Alabama. When they found out that it would take months to repair they came to see me.”

The Air Station has not been the only helpful source for Corb and other Katrina victims in the area, according to Smith.

“The Beaufort community has been very supportive,” Smith said. “They have been very willing to offer their support.”

Although Corb’s family was able to move into a home, they had nothing but the clothes on their back, according to Smith.

“With the help of the local community they now have enough to live on,” Smith said. “People were donating everything from pots to bed linens. It was an overwhelming response.”

Service members desiring to take advantage of this bulletin should keep in mind the BAH Own Right does not mean they receive BAH with dependents, according to Smith.

“On-base housing residents have to pay $971, so a person who receives BAH Own Right has to pay out of pocket money,” Smith said.

Although a service member who has BAH Own Right will have to pay some extra money, they will not have to worry about a long-term lease or deposits, according to Smith.

“Anyone moving into on-base housing does not have to pay any deposits for security, electricity or water,” Smith said. “It is a little easier to live in on-base housing, but they don’t have to live there. We will help them if they want to live out in town.”

Single Marines are not the only ones receiving help for their families, according to Smith. Tri-Command Military Housing has also become lenient with their guest policy for those residing in Laurel Bay, according to Smith.

“We usually have a really strict guest policy,” Smith said. “But we have allowed Marines and Sailors who live on base to have their displaced family members stay with them for an extended period.”

Fightertown residents who have displaced family members living with them have to submit the number of people staying at the residence and vehicle information to the Tri-Command Housing, according to Smith.

In addition to the Air Station and Tri-Command housing helping one single Marine move into a house, nine residents  already living in on-base housing now have family members residing with them, according to Smith.

“These are the numbers we have for now,” Smith said. “We are trying to find out if there is possibly going to be more.”

Along with providing displaced family members homes, Fightertown is also trying to help those affected by Katrina by offering them food. The Air Station Mess Hall has started a collection outside of the facility, according to Gunnery Sgt. Eric Joseph, the food technician for the Air Station Mess Hall.

“There are collection baskets outside the Mess Hall doors,” Joseph said. “So Marines and Sailors donate everything from canned goods to rice.”

The food will go to local displaced families or to the Red Cross, according to Joseph.

“We wanted to do what we could as far as collecting,” Joseph said. “I know there are Marines in the area that need the food for their families.”

Lonnie Eatman, the civilian manager for the Air Station Mess Hall, is also offering employment opportunities to displaced family members, according to Joseph.

“I think everything that we are doing is a very noble thing,” Joseph said. “I’ve been through hurricanes and I know how it feels. Every little thing that we can do helps.”