Saturday, September 03, 2005

As fast as they can

The events of the last week in New Orleans have left me, well, speechless. Even the tragedy in Khademiya, just a few miles from here, on Wednesday, where nearly 900 Iraqis were killed in a human stampede seem insignificant compared to Katrina’s aftermath. That makes it tough to post from here, because while yes, the war does go on, everyone’s attention is focused on New Orleans, which is as it should be.

I do want to spout off a little bit at some of the critics who are attacking how long it took for the military to arrive. There seems to be a perception that the National Guard is available at a moments notice, capable of just rising out of the ground where they are needed, instantly capable of providing food, shelter and medical care. Reality is that it’s going to take 2-3 days from the time the Governor decides they need large numbers of Guard troops until any are available. Think about it. What needs to happen? What are the troops needed for, what’s expected of them, what expectation is there of the need for force, how long are they needed, what facilities exist to support them logistically, who is in charge….these are just a few of the questions that need to be answered before the first phone call is made. Then units start to get called up. 24 hours minimum to get 75% of your soldiers to the Armory. The other 25% are out of town, or they moved, or gave us a bad phone number, or any one of many other excuses. Then you start getting trucks loaded, weapons issued, ammunition drawn, food and tentage loaded, life support for the troops coordinated, turning the probably very general deployment order into an executable Operations order, and finally start moving. That’s another day, minimum. You’re looking at 72 hours from the time the Governor says “we need the Guard” until you can put any troops on the ground. Logistics convoys that can actually deliver relief supplies will take another 24 hours to load, minimum. If everything goes right, and the relief supplies needed are actually on hand in the quantities needed. So 4 days to get relief supplies delivered.

If I recall correctly, the Governor of Louisiana asked for troops on Tuesday. Troops began showing up on Wednesday, were providing security on Thursday, and food showed up on Friday. That is actually a phenomenal response time. Now those troops need to be supported logistically, meaning tens of thousands of meals daily, thousand of gallons of water, medical support just to keep the troops healthy not to mention the victims, billeting, toilets, and trash removal. Add to that fuel and maintenance requirements. Not an insignificant task.

I just ask people, before you get too critical of the response, to consider the scope, the numbers, and the reality of how long stuff really takes to get done. It may not seem fast enough, but it is as fast as it can be.


Anonymous said...

I completely concur with you! I have been paying attention to this issue and watching the people on newscasts. Why is it that all of this footage can be shot, but nothing seems to be being done? Then everyone blames the military or those in charge because nothing is being done! Don't those filmers feel a little bit guilty they are just filming and not really doing anything? It's no wonder the people are angry! They see the media all around them not doing a darn thing, and the victims are going without!
Why not start bussing people to military bases? Most of them have a good stock of tents and cots, not to mention the housing, like the little tin huts. Most bases have plenty of field areas, and in order to get the people OUT of the area and safe, I think this is a good solution, but hey, what do I know.....

Mary Godwin said...

Comments I've read that pack critique into a question about "where's the military" have seemed pointed at the criminally insufficient response of the President and the administration ... as in, why didn't he order a more agressive response with available military resources? Any further responses reflect frustration for the unfortunate reality that National Guard troops and resources are not "at home" when they are so badly needed.

I haven't read ANY negative press about military response time or about the contribution being made by soldiers stateside ... most comments I'm reading are speaking about the stress on soldiers already worked to the edge of exhaustion. This is one tough situation, and I'm reading compassion and support for the dedicated men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who are among the first to jump into the fray.

I am truely sorry for any negative readings you've come across, Pat. I wish that had not been the case ... who needs that when you're already up to your neck in tough situations? My best to you and those with you in Iraq. There are lots of us doing what we can back here to support you all.

Thinking in your direction ... -mg

Mustang 09 said...

I actually have read criticism of the military, unfortunately. There is plenty of blame to go around for being unprepared, from a Mayor who ignored his own evacuation plan, didn't use the hundreds of busses available to him to evacuate, and allowed those busses to remain in the city to be flooded. A Governor who didn't order a mandatory evacuation until the day after the President called her and asked her to evacuate, and refused to cede overall authority for the disaster to the Federal government until Saturday.
I'll speak to what I know. Everything is about logistics. No order issued on Tuesday was going to result in anything getting to New Orleans faster. Ships will only sail so fast, and cannot be prepositioned in a hurricane. Hurricanes sink ships. The millions of MREs and cases of water neccesary to feed the victims need to be loaded onto trucks which need drivers, who need rest enroute or they drive off the road. The things that can happen immediately did happen immediately. Coast Guard and Army helicopters were evacuating victims on Wedneday morning. Helicopters cannot fly 24-7, they need maintenance and crews need sleep, otherwise they fall out of the sky. Security forces began arriving Thursday, 48 hours after the levee breach. Active duty soldiers could not have gotten there any faster. The movieland image of the president saying "send in the Airborne" followed by thousands of soldiers charging on to waiting trucks exists only in movieland. In the real world, executing the best laid plans takes time. From the time the levee was breached, on Tuesday, it took 72 hours to get large amounts of aid on sight. That is actually an incredibly fast response. The only possible way it could have happened faster is if it was already there. Like all the busses that weren't used to evacuate the city before the storm.

Anonymous said...

thank you thank you thank you... if this could be courtesy copied to every living room in america...

our country seems to think just because they want it now, if it isn't here, they get to blame someone.

it is such a common-sense thing. the mobilization of aid for a disaster of this scope takes just what no one wants to allow. Time.

Bless you over there... thank you so much for all you do every day. more people are grateful than you know...

Papa Ray said...

A new insurgency front just opened up.

Troops begin Combat Operations

Papa Ray
West Texas

Anonymous said...

To the other anonymous poster....exactly! Those are my sentiments and I'm so sick of people wanting everything immediately if not sooner. Sorry folks, I'm not Genie and I can't just whip something up with the bob of my head and flick of my ponytail! It just doesn't happen like that!

Jillene said...

I am so sorry that you have recieved the spin that we, as Americans, are upset with how the military has handled the situation at hand. Frustration and anger often leads to pointing fingers of blame on the lowest rung on the pole. I believe that for the most part people are upset that the "higher ups" took so long to formulate a plan and act, or so it seems. Hurricanes occurs very frequently in the US, they are familiar and for the most part predictable. Katrina was a gigantic storm and we knew it was coming. However, many chose to stay in coastal towns, because didn't think it would be as bad as Camille, and many were unable to evacuate due to limitations of money, etc. The various government agencies involved knew that this storm would devastate New Orleans with a direct hit because it is for the most part below sea level. A question that resonates with many is why were people that were unable to leave New Orleans put in a New Orleans...below sea level? Bad planning. Too many chefs and not enough cooks.
I grew up on the Mississippi gulf coast and all my memories are just that...memories.

Jeff Hess said...

Shalom Mustang,

I don't doubt that there are some clueless ones out there who might point fingers at the military response, but the vast majority of Americans don't buy it.

During my own time in the Guard (track commander, D Btty 2/174 ADA 1980-83; platform instructor Ohio Military Academy 1983-86) I was never called out for disaster duty, but we ran the drills. Your timeline matches my recollections.

However, the declaration of emergency which started the clock ticking came on Saturday, 27 August, not on Tuesday, 30 August. Once the administration acted, all military units responded in what can only be seen as rapid and heroic fashion. The failure was one of inaction on the part of our elected leadership at the Federal level.

As always, thank you for doing what you do.


Jeff Hess

Papa Ray said...

Here is something every American should read.

Pass it on. (this ain't spam)

Papa Ray
West Texas