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Key US military facility in Pacific devastated by rogue waves

Jan 24

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Rogue waves crashed into a bar at U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands on Saturday, Jan. 20, causing damage that could take months to repair. The first wave forcefully burst through doors, hurling them off their hinges and sweeping two individuals standing outside into the rapidly flooding interior.

The affected island, known as Roi-Namur, has been a crucial U.S. military facility in the Pacific since Marines took control away from Japan in World War II.

Recovery for the island’s civilian infrastructure might take years, impacting all Department of Defense personnel living there. Army-provided photos revealed widespread flooding on the island, with a dining facility submerged in mud.

120 military personnel call the island home and roughly 80 were evacuated during the incident, according to the Army.

Waves also damaged unaccompanied housing and a church and submerged an automotive complex and theater. The aftermath revealed a few minor injuries to individuals.

The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site focuses on testing and evaluating ballistic missile defense systems and space surveillance operations. According to the Army, the recovery could span years.

Col. Andrew Morgan, garrison commander at Kwajalein Atoll, described the current situation as one of the most challenging times in the island’s 80-year history. He emphasized resilience, a marathon of recovery and the island’s vital role in national security.

Aerial photos showcase the extensive damage on Roi-Namur, the second-largest island on the Kwajalein Atoll, with parts still submerged.

The Kwajalein Atoll houses specialized instruments, including high-fidelity radars and optical sensors, making it the forefront of long-range missile testing and defense. Its remote Pacific location makes it one of the few places where the U.S. military can test intercontinental ballistic missiles. The annual Department of Defense tests examine missile flight characteristics, capabilities, and reliability.

Morgan emphasized the importance of clearing and assessing the safety of the runway. Once open, it will facilitate the movement of people and equipment, initiating the recovery process.

Restoring the island’s infrastructure is dubbed “Operation Roi Recovery,” with about 60 personnel remaining on the island to begin restoring utilities.

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[RYAN ROBERTSON]

A SOCIAL MEDIA POST CAPTURED THE DRAMATIC MOMENT AS ROGUE WAVES CRASHED INTO A BAR IN THE MARSHALL ISLANDS SATURDAY. THE FIRST WAVE FORCEFULLY BURSTS THROUGH DOORS, HURLING THEM OFF THEIR HINGES AND SWEEPING TWO INDIVIDUALS STANDING OUTSIDE INTO THE RAPIDLY FLOODING INTERIOR.

LUCKILY THERE WERE ONLY A FEW MINOR INJURIES. THE WAVES DAMAGED HOUSING, SUBMERGED AN AUTOMOTIVE COMPLEX, DINING FACILITY, AND THEATER.

THE ISLAND IS CALLED ROI-NAMUR AND IT’S BEEN A KEY U-S MILITARY FACILITY IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN SINCE MARINES TOOK THE ISLAND FROM JAPAN IN WORLD WAR TWO. 

NOW IT’S HOME TO THE RONALD REAGAN BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE TEST SITE, whichFOCUSES ON TESTING AND EVALUATING BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEMS AND SPACE SURVEILLANCE OPERATIONS — AND ACCORDING TO THE ARMY RECOVERY COULD LAST YEARS.

COL. ANDREW MORGAN | GARRISON COMMANDER, KWAJALEIN ATOLL

This is going to go down in history books as one of its most challenging times ever in its 80 year history. We will get through this, and we are settling in for a marathon of recovery ahead. It may last months or even years, but remember, we’re important to our nation’s security. And this is our home. We love our home. I’m proud of you, team. We’re showing the world that we are truly one team. 

[RYAN ROBERTSON]

ROI-NAMUR IS THE SECOND LARGEST ISLAND ON THE KWAJALEIN ATOLL AND THESE AERIAL PHOTOS SHOW JUST HOW EXTENSIVE THE DAMAGE IS. PARTS OF THE ISLAND ARE STILL SUBMERGED.

THE KWAJALEIN ATOLL HOUSES SPECIALIZED INSTRUMENTS – HIGH-FIDELITY RADARS AND OPTICAL SENSORS – AND WHEN IT COMES TO  LONG-RANGE MISSILE TESTING AND DEFENSE THEY ARE THE TIP OF THE SPEAR.

IT’S ONE OF THE ONLY PLACES THE U-S MILITARY CAN TEST INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES –  BECAUSE OF ITS REMOTE LOCATION IN THE PACIFIC. 

EVERY YEAR NUMEROUS DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TESTS EXAMINE THE FLIGHT CHARACTERISTICS, CAPABILITIES, AND RELIABILITY OF MISSILES, INTERCEPTORS, AND SATELLITES.

COLONEL MORGAN EMPHASIZED CLEARING AND ASSESSING THE SAFETY OF THE RUNWAY. 

Once the runway is open, we can move people and equipment back and forth to start the recovery process.

RESTORING THE ISLAND’S INFRASTRUCTURE IS DUBBED “OPERATION ROI RECOVERY.” ABOUT 60 PERSONNEL REMAINED ON THE ISLAND TO BEGIN RESTORING UTILITIES.