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Helicopter `prop wash' creates port havoc: even in the routine, the need for a safety mindset in important in all MTMC operations--field and office. This point was brought home Oct. 22 when a helicopter "prop wash" brought havoc to an operation bright star exercise in Alexandria, Egypt.

Monday, Oct. 22, was my first day at the Alexandria, Egypt, port. I walked past the multiple rolls of concertina wire and the tents, to the deployable port operations center and our own tent for the Integrated Computer Deployment System, or ICODES.

Looking around, I wondered about the tents that did not have sandbags around the base, but noticed that our ICODES tent was sand bagged. Alan Klingsieck and I worked the day fixing problems and getting me familiar with my new job here.

There are the typical problems in dealing with the ports of other countries, and the atmosphere was charged in the operations center. Maj. Darren Compton and others in the deployment support team dealt with frustration after frustration.

I am from the 839th Transportation Battalion, but was present as a member of a deployment support team from the 840th Transportation Battalion, Izmir, Turkey.

At 4 p.m., I heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter getting louder. I am familiar with the sound of a variety of Army helicopters, but this was different. With the Sept. 11 attacks still fresh, I rushed out of what to me would be a large target, and made ready to duck into the container area. When I saw the green chopper coming along in front, and not straight on toward us, I stopped to look. It was a Navy CH53 Sea Stallion--and probably OK.

Suddenly, it slowed and a windstorm filled my face with sand. As I turned the tent pole, with tent attached, smashed into me pinning me to the operations center. Then, just as suddenly, fell back into place. I turned to go in and warn those inside that was the safest place to be.

A nearby tent started to collapse. A squad leader yelled, "You'd better get running now!"

They just got out when the whole tent collapsed in a shambles.

That is when I saw that where there had once been a sea of tents, was now barren ground strewn with debris.

I went in and warned everyone. We waited a bare moment, and looked out. The Sea Stallion was further away and the prop wash was gone. I went out. The medics were retrieving their gear lost in the wreckage and were starting to hunt for people in the balled-up mess of concertina wire and mashed tents. There seemed to be enough people for the job. I rushed around to the back (and downwind) of the wrecked area to pick up documents and prevent any sensitive material from escaping us. There was Bone.

I believe the tent withstood most of the windblast and let loose right at the end because of the sand bags that weighted the tent edges. Otherwise, I think our tent would have looked just like the other splintered wreckage--not to mention what could have become of me.

Lucky for all, the task force people suffered only minor injuries. Our Military Traffic Management Command people were all right. The only damage we had was two tent pole comers that cracked. We braced these internally, and lashed cross braces. Then we went back to work. Yep, locations close to the water could be subject to high winds at any time.

By Robert Tilson Systems Administrator 839th Transportation Bn. Livorno, Italy
COPYRIGHT 2001 U.S. Military Traffic Management Command
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Tilson, Robert
Publication:Translog
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:546
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