Going Beyond the Mission


By Gina DiNicolo

In 2007, Marine Col. Mark Desens and his Marine Expedtitionary Unit found themselves as accidental crisis responders. While training for an upcoming deployment, he and his Marines were in southern Indiana, an area soaked by three days of heavy rain.

“Literally, my infantry battalion was washed away by an 8-foot wall of water,” Desens said, as was a good portion of his logistics battalion. After the unit extracted itself from what was sizing up to be a major flood disaster, the new MEU commander, with five days on the job, decided the Marines needed to do something to help. After obtaining the requisite legal blessings from his commanders, the Marines flew to the tiny town of Elnora to undertake their new side mission.

“My Marines rebuilt a section of the levee the next day,” said Desens. When they left that night, there was hope, but no one knew what to expect. The next morning, Desens got the word.

“Elnora had made it,” he recalled, one of the few towns spared by floodwaters and a tribute to what a community and the U.S. military can do when faced with few alternatives.