NAS Pensacola Welcomes Guantanamo Bay Evacuees

Hurricane Matthew forced a mandatory evacuation of about 700 spouses and children of military personnel at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.  Flown out from Cuba, those family members landed at NAS Pensacola Sunday, most with just a suitcase.  The Commanding Officer spoke about the accommodations and preparations for a potentially long stay.

Of all the Naval Air Stations, why Pensacola?  With the third largest galley in the Navy, and student housing down at the moment, NAS Pensacola was the perfect place for the evacuees to be able to call home for a while.  The base doesn’t normally allow pets, but Captain Christopher Martin explains exceptions have been made for four-legged friends.

“My job is to make this as least stressful as possible on these folks and what I told them this morning,” Captain Christopher Martin said.  “During their stay here, the last thing I want them to worry about is anything while they’re here.”

Because we’re not sure how much damage the hurricane could bring, we’re not sure how long the families could be at NAS Pensacola.  Preparations are being made for the long term, and even school is a thought.

“There were concerns this morning about education, and school and that sort of stuff,” Captain Martin said.   “There’s a lot of teachers from Guantanamo that are actually here, so if they have to stay for an extended period of time we’ll do what we can to support them.”

Since they’ve joined people on the base, Captain Martin says NAS Pensacola residents have been very welcoming, helpful, and friendly to their new neighbors.

“We’re all one Navy family and being able to support our family in a time of need, there’s no better feeling,” Captain Martin said.  “Just to see those families coming off the planes yesterday… They were tired, but to see them this morning, we had an area where the kids could play while the parents were getting some valuable information, it’s truly heartwarming.”

Hurricane Matthew is expected to make landfall in Eastern Cuba Tuesday evening.

Activities are being planned for the people who were evacuated, like a movie night this week on the lawn.  Representatives from the base say this is a way to make everyone feel welcomed.

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