Personnel evacuated from U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll after severe flooding

By James Brantley
U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll

A series of weather-driven waves Jan. 20 resulted in significant flooding of the island of Roi-Namur. The island is the second-largest island of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll supports the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. RTS serves as a space and missile defense test range for the Department of Defense.

USAG–KA personnel evacuated 80 of the approximately 120 personnel who call Roi-Namur home. Sixty people remain to assess the damage and restore basic services while continuing the water and fuel runs that sustain the island of Enniburr, the island south of Roi-Namur where the Marshallese workforce resides.

“Clearing the runway on Roi-Namur and assessing its safety is our top priority now that we have evacuated personnel not required for the initial response efforts,” said Col. Drew Morgan, USAG–KA garrison commander. “Once the runway is open, we can move people and equipment back and forth to start the recovery process.”

An aerial photo the morning of Jan. 21 shows extensive flooding in the central portion of Roi-Namur, which is the second-largest island of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photo by Jessica Dambruch

The efforts of the garrison and multiple mission partners, which is named Operation Roi Recovery, could take months to complete. Aerial photos show extensive damage to Roi-Namur’s infrastructure, and multiple areas on the island are underwater.

Containers were tossed across Roi-Namur by the storm surge.

Flooding from the waves damaged much of the unaccompanied personnel housing. The dining facility, Outrigger Bar and Grill, the chapel, and the Tradewinds Theater were moderately to severely damaged. The automotive complex remains underwater.

The Roi-Namur church steeple rests on the coral-strewn grounds on the opposite side of the Tradewinds Theater, background, from where it once stood. The steeple is the only part of the church that is recognizable.

“Roi-Namur represents the tip of Kwajalein’s spear,” Morgan said. “Roi residents are a special part of the Team Kwaj family. The workforce and community have mounted an impressive support response. I am very proud to be part of Team Kwaj.”

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