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NAPLES, Italy — With fresh images of Hurricane Ike’s aftermath still in the news and the shadow of Mount Vesuvius looming, sailors and Marines in Naples conducted an evacuation exercise Monday to test their ability to keep track of everyone in the event of a disaster.

The Navy Exchange food court on the support site in Gricignano was transformed into an evacuation processing center. Computer stations were set up to record information on each individual and to issue barcode bracelets to ensure all evacuees were tracked and accounted for between in-processing and evacuation.

The exercise was conducted by members of the base’s emergency response team and Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., deployed on board the USS San Antonio. The ship was in Naples on a port visit.

"Most of the exercises we’ve done have been in a field environment, but the same principles apply here," said Marine Staff Sgt. Charntae Freeman, a member of the MEU’s Combat Logistics Brigade. "We certainly can’t complain about our surroundings."

Despite the cafe, movie theater and fast-food restaurants flanking the exercise area, the Marines and sailors were focused on processing more than 100 volunteer evacuees. These included students from Naples High School and new personnel attending an orientation class that coincided with the drill.

"We brief newly arriving personnel on threats specific to this area, like the volcano, and stress the importance of individual preparation," explained Tim Eckert, emergency management officer for Naval Support Activity Naples.

"This exercise today is generic enough that all installations can use it and tailor it to their location," Eckert said. "We gave ourselves a two-hour window to process 150 people. This gives us an idea of how long it would take to do this on a larger scale."

The drill is part of the training requirements for Navy and Marine Corps personnel.

"This is a perishable skill that we need to practice a few times a year," said Cmdr. Tom Amblad, exercise planner for Commander, Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet. "Do the computers work, do we have 110 power and 220 appliances — that’s the kind of detail that we need to be prepared for. The time to learn this is not during an actual disaster."


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