With headlines like these, who needs enemies? You’d think the continental US has hung Puerto Rico out to dry.
Except…what’s that in the background?
It’s the USS KEARSARGE, unloading supplies and Sailors onto Puerto Rico!
And look over there? What’s that?
It’s the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, clearing roads with locals!
And what’s the noise?
It’s the Air Force, bringing in supplies. And that other noise?
It’s the US Army, clearing more roads of debris!
(If it wasn’t hosted on DVIDS HUB, it could probably be a Husqvarna commercial too!)
From day one, FEMA has asked for DoD help, and the department has been moving quickly to help Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida and everywhere else hit by the recent hurricanes. FEMA has done an outstanding job coordinating the effort.
The biggest problem is that of transport. Whenever something knocks out power and closes the roads, it takes a while to reopen them. You might have thousands of gallons of water right off the coast, but if it can’t move inland, it won’t help the people there. Yes, you can move it by aircraft, but you have to first clear a place to land and then you have to distribute it from that point. Helicopters, not surprisingly, don’t do well if they catch something in the rotor (see this video, start at the 25 second mark).
This same thing happened in Haiti. I was a watch officer at US Second Fleet, and I saw the movement of personnel and equipment first hand. First we moved in a Command and Control (C2) unit, then we dropped in the Air Force to open up the airport, and then we moved in the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit personnel to open up the port. The devastation was pretty extensive:
“The piers were completely destroyed,” said Navy Diver 1st Class (DSW/EXW/SS) Chris Juelsgaard, a MDSU diving supervisor. “There were cranes, conex boxes and vehicles in the water. Basically, the condition of the port was pretty bad.”
Once those were open, supplies moved into the coastal cities, then inward as roads were opened. It took a while because there was a ton of material to move. You have to move all the debris away while managing your own supply lines, helping people you find along the way, and preventing damage to existing infrastructure. If you wonder why you pay for a permit from the city to bury power lines, well, here is one answer.
The hardest thing to deal with is often VIPs. Everyone and their sister wants a picture in front of a backhoe clearing rubble. In Haiti, we had to delay supplies because VIPs wanted to make speeches on the ground. I was happy to see President Trump delaying his trip to Puerto Rico until Tuesday. That allows everyone on the ground to get things in order, rather than focus on his trip.
If you’ve read this far, do me a favor. If you see the counts on the DVIDS HUB photos and videos, they are pretty low. People are more inclined to read the gloom and doom articles then see what is actually happening. So do me a favor and share at least one of the videos or a few photos on your social media account. Go here to find media specifically for Hurricane Maria. This will help counter the narrative that somehow we don’t care about fellow Americans living in Puerto Rico.
And as a side note, if you happened to get lucky and not have major hurricanes during your term in office, maybe you could be respectful of others that have to deal with that.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Government of Puerto Rico, FEMA, Husqvarna, or any other government agency or company. Yes, literally, I have my own opinions on this subject and chose to put them out here.
Please check out my blog and donate to Da Tech Guy!