Duplin County, North Carolina, June 25, 2019 —
The Defense Logistics Agency prides itself on “just in time delivery” to meet logistics needs, but for a mother in labor in North Carolina it was sheriff’s deputies using a vehicle obtained through the agency that helped her get to the delivery room on time during the wettest storm ever to hit the Carolinas.
While the high winds and driving rains of 2018’s Hurricane Florence are long gone, Detective Ben Parrish, training coordinator for the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, still reminisces about the flood waters that came with the storm and how they might have caused a child to be born at home. Parrish remembers that the waters around the office’s mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle reached almost seven feet as it went through the flood waters to reach medical aid during Hurricane Florence. He was glad they had received it from the Sierra Army Depot in California through the 1033 program that DLA Disposition Services manages for the Defense Department.
“The water almost reached the vent on the side of the hood, but it never skipped a beat,” Parrish said.
The National Weather Service estimated during the storm that rainfall totals might approach 40 inches along areas of the North Carolina coast by the time Florence finally dissipated. Parrish said there was an area of the county where measurements taken from a boat showed 17 feet of water over the highway below.
The MRAP has been used extensively for rescues because it not only has all-terrain capabilities, but it also features very high ground clearance that helps it maneuver in flooded areas. The vehicle used by Duplin County was modified to provide bench seating in the back for personnel, but retained a stretcher rack along the inside wall for medical evacuations. Parrish said the MRAP came in very handy for moving “mom” safely during her labor. By the time they arrived, he remembers she was already well on the way to delivery.
Before Florence, Parrish said he and his colleagues had to rely on the state for MRAP support. Now deputies can provide the same service to police departments across the county, which has eight incorporated towns. Those towns have police departments that vary in size from 1 to 2 officers up to 14. Besides rescues, Parrish said they can also help those officers execute high risk search warrants.
“We had a subject who was strung out on meth amphetamines, in a trailer, and was sitting there making his own hand grenades while making meth,” Parrish said. “We had to call the state emergency response team, so we saw the need the need to have an MRAP of our own because we realized how long it can take to get some armor to us.”
He described Duplin County as mostly rural, covering 819 square miles, which is why they have continued to seek tools from the 1033 program to meet the challenge.
“The equipment we have received from you guys has been phenomenal,” Parrish said. “The support we have received from everybody has been wonderful.”
Today, Duplin County also has several Polaris 850 all-terrain vehicles to help with search and rescue, and it was approved through North Carolina’s state coordinator to receive rubber boats. While visiting DLA Disposition Services' Richmond, Virginia, site to acquire some 15-foot Zodiac boats, Parrish also learned of some boat motors that were available and pursued those as well.
“I took out my phone, which I can use to see the DLA site, and requested the motors right then,” Parrish said. “Within two hours we had approval…now we have boats and motors.”
Besides handling the logistics of the 1033 program for Duplin County, Parrish also schedules any outside training. He said they had coordinated with Army trainers from Fort Bragg to help train operators to handle the ATVs safely. They also received help with medical training from the Camp Lejuene Naval Hospital staff conducting community outreach programs.
The department also has a tactical dune buggy to handle challenging terrain. Parrish said they are working with local instructors to create a swift water rescue team and train rescue swimmers.
Supporting equipment the office has obtained also includes trauma blankets, first aid kits, exposure suits, life jackets, generators, tents and more. Currently, Parrish is preparing to receive 20 defibrilators to allow deputies in every Duplin County vehicle to be better equipped to offer immediate emergency aid.
“We’re able to use the program as it was intended and get equipment out on the street,” Parrish said. “We’ve just had huge, huge success with the program.”
For more information on the 1033 program, visit the Law Enforcement Support Office page on the DLA Disposition Services website.