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By Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains
CAMP LEJEUNE, NC – More than six months after Hurricane Florence destroyed North Carolina remains hundreds of buildings in Camp Lejeune and two other nearby Marine Corps installations frozen in time, with walls still inlaid and missing.
Marines say they need $ 3.6 billion to repair the damage to more than 900 buildings at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps Air Station New River and the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point caused by the storm and catastrophic floods in its efterdybning. And while they have torn down sucked, moldy walls, lowered carpets on roofs, and moved marines to trailers, they have so far not received an ear from the federal government to correct the damage.
Now Marine Corps & # 39; top officer warning this alert at Camp Lejeune – home to one-third of Corps's total combat force – is breaking down and "will continue to break down under current conditions." In a recent note to Marine Secretary Richard Spencer, Commander General Robert Neller quoted, among other things, "negative factors" redirecting resources to the border where the Trump administration has sent active troops to patrol and plans to use military funding to pay for a wall.
"Mr. Secretary, I ask for your help," wrote Neller in his note, his second this year requesting that Spencer pushes Congress to provide more funds. "The Hurricanes season is just three months away, and we have marines, sailors, and civilians working in compromised structures."
Neller wrote that the lack of money needed for repairs and unexpected expenses such as the US military mission at southern border "introduces unacceptable risk to the naval combat of preparedness and solvency."
The Ministry of Defense has set aside money for repairs, but not until the fiscal year 2020. Congress has not responded to Neller's appeal for more money in the meantime.
In a March 23 memo obtained by NBC News, Acting Defense Minister Patrick Shanahan requested $ 600 million congressional approval for "near-hurricane enhancement schemes". A defense minister said as much as $ 400 million could go to Camp Lejeune's recovery efforts.
"We understand the impact on preparedness if Congress does not approve the reprogamming action," Shanahan wrote.
In a statement to NBC News, then Richard Burr, RN.C., said it is "unacceptable" that "Camp Lejeune and other North American military bases are still awaiting disaster relief we first requested in the fall."
Burr's colleague North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, agreed to tell NBC News in a written statement that "Camp Lejeune suffered significant damage from Hurricane Florence and Senators Tillis and Burr work with congressmen to secure additional federal relief to ensure that training and preparedness do not be affected in the long term, and the base can make a complete recovery. "
Frogs in the hallway
A t Camp Lejeune's Second Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, about half of the structures suffered significant structural damage, and Most of the roofs were blown away. They are still covered in blue tarp. The second MEF – or II MEF, as is well known – is one of three MEFS around the world, representing one third of the Corps' clear combat force.
"We are 100 percent operational," says Col. Brian Wolford, Chief of Staff to II MEF. "We do our work here, but the conditions we work under are like in where we were in Iraq or Afghanistan."
Wolford was among the first marines back in the building after the storm and describes seeing frogs in the hallways when they first returned.
"Is that how we want our mariners and civilian marines to work?" he asked. "In this kind of relationship?"
When NBC News toured the damage, the navy headquarters in II MEF held a positive attitude to their working conditions. They were eager to show us the "gruesome scarecrow" – a painting they found when they tore down the damaged plaster wall after the storm.
During World War II, the building was a hospital, and the Navy believes that scarecrow was once in the children's wing.
The destruction has forced the marines to distinguish on some training, including exercises at Onslow Beach, where amphibious training teaches marines to attack from land and sea.
Some buildings on base are out of order, with ceilings caved in, walls crumbling and molding everywhere. At Camp Johnson, sitting on historic Montford Point, on the north side of Lejeune, the buildings have never been resumed, and Mary's teacher support aid spends their days in classrooms. Montford Point, where the first African Americans received their training to be Marines in World War II, is a holy place for the Marine Corps.
Marine responsible for all installations says the repair delays affect performance and that he is disappointed with the answer.
"I mean, it's a bit like a thousand cuts right now," said May. Vincent Coglianese. "It has a serious impact."
"We have done all the due diligence that we [can] and we continue to wait for further assistance," he said. "And there are various reasons why I suppose we didn't. It's not for me to say." I'm just disappointed. "
In December, Neller told Congress that repairing 31 priority buildings said the base would cost 3.6 billion. Some buildings were so old and damaged that they had to be rebuilt from the ground, he said.
Meanwhile, Marine Corps has moved money already in its budget to pay for small temporary fixes. 19659007] "We've done the first thing you know is destroying control operations and triage," said Brig. General Secretary Ben Watson, the upcoming General of Camp Lejeune. "But we don't have the funding yet to actually repair the buildings."
Watson know that another hurricane or severe rain could change everything, making difficult working conditions unsustainable.
"Marines will find a way to reach the mission," he said. "It just gets harder and harder. And we are asking more and more of our service members and their families to do the same mission. "
The next hurricane season begins June 1. Gen. Neller is expected to retire from the Marine Corps then, after 44 years of service.