Operation "UNIFIED RESPONSE" - January 2010
EarthQuake in Haiti
This is from an e-mail sequence to a family member.
29 January 2010, Thursday.
Another big helicopter carrier, Nassau (LHA 4), with hospital arrived Jan 23. This one may have brought Osprey aircraft. This is the one with a propeller engine on each wing that tilt upwards to lift-off or land, then rotate back to normal position to fly like a conventional airplane. Also, two high-speed ferries able to carry people and 450 tons, MV Huakai and MV Alakai. (ex-Hawaii 500 person ferries bought by the Navy after the company went bankrupt). Huakai arrives today with Navy equipment for operating a harbor and ship unloading -- radios, fork lifts, etc. The other ship will leave Norfolk in a few days with an Army rapid port opening unit. Until the port is open, much supplies are being routed to Gitmo, Cuba, and put on helos to Haiti and ships offshore, 170 miles away. The operation has been granted Task Force status, TF-48.
20 January 2010, Wednesday
The fleet has arrived, even if not assigned an exciting role. Three are survey and salvage ships
to clear the harbor, Two are cargo ships due next week and Big Horn is an oiler to refuel the others.
Two provide communication services for Coast Guard Helicopers. One was equipped to go aid Africa,
was rerouted and was first real aid ship to arrive. One was in Nicaragua, stopped to Gitmo, Cuba, for fuel and supplies. Comfort, the hospital ship, was stripped and in the yards for maintance after a Caribeanne tour that included Haiti last summer, yet still sailed in 72 hours, but had to pickup medical teams in Florida and more
to be flown in from round the courty.
Navy has in Haiti operation "Unified Responce" on 20Jan2010
Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Jan 16 aircraft carrier, helicopter field for this mission
Higgins (DDG 76) Jan 16 provide comm for Coast Guard helos
Normandy (CG 60) Jan 16 - cruiser -- air control
USNS Grasp (T-ASR-51) Jan 17 - salvage ship for port repair
Gunston Hall (LSD 44) Jan 17 - rerouted from African aid mission
Bataan (LHD 5) Jan 18 - Lead ship and Marines (22ndMEU) carrier. Also acts as 600 bed hospital
Fort McHenry (LSD 43) Jan18 carries air cushion landing craft and supplies
Carter Hall (LSD 50) Jan 18 a/c landing craft and cargo
Underwood (FFG 36) Jan 18 for coast guard comm on north coast
USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) Jan 20 hospital ship, to handle 1000 cases at a time
Ten Oper Rm, 60 ICU, 400 serious beds, 600 less serious beds
USNS Henson (T-AGS-63) Jan 20 port survey ship
Bunker Hill (CG 52) Jan20 Cruiser -- usually for its big radar
USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2) Jan 21 cargo ship
USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011) Jan 22 - dry cargo
USNS Sumner (T-AGS-61) Jan 25? survey ship
USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198) oiler (a small tanker, by commercial standards, to accompany the fleet)
Nassau (LHA 4) Jan 23 Helicopters and hospital
This force includes about 60 helicopters.
USS (not shown) are U.S. Ships. , ie. Navy combat ships
USNS are built by the Navy, but have had guns removed and are now manned by a civilian crew. This is a game to reduce Navy manpower on the books. The Navy captain must stop at the union hall before going off to war. Literally.
In WW2 union crews refused to unload at Midway (the turning point in the Pacific War) on Sunday; the battle started on Wednesday. Union workers loading the ships for Guadalcanal would only work a 5-day week, Wed thru Sunday, to get premium pay ; Marines preparing for battle had to play stevedore. Guess what I think of this game?
19 Jan 2009, Tuesday.
Found why the military is acting in a low role in Haiti. Obama wants to show that his is a civilian administration and assigned USAID to lead agency in Haiti. Agency for International Development is an arm of State Department. They, of course, have no experience in anything practical, and recall that Obama has to say that experience is not required to have a leading position, only good intentions count. Foggy Bottom specializes in having well accoutered dinners with suave talk over cigars to be followed by position papers for later review. I would not be surprised that the military is doing exactly what is asked of it and not being asked (or not offering instruction) on what should be done.
On a check of the USAID website, they are asking "How Can I Help" -- dial and get a $10 donation added to your phone bill. Volunteer. Not what they are DOing. Just typical welfare agency, feel good stuff. We might as well put ACORN is charge
18 Jan 2010, Monday.
I am now ambivalent about the response in Haiti. The World has quick response teams that flew from Europe and US cities to rescue people buried in rubble. The three US amphibious ships have take longer to arrive than I had anticipated. I get the impression (or have the fear) that they may have been delayed by keeping them as a fleet rather than sending them as ready. They were principally loaded at Norfolk (actually Little Creek where my ship was based} and they and the hospital ship made a stop at Mayport (Jacksonville) Florida to pick up additional (I suspect heavy construction equipment for CBs) that is closer to southern bases and include supplies, doctors, etc. that could not get to Norfolk in time. The Bataan had to stop at a Marine base to pick up 2,000 troops, why delay other ships? Carter Hall and Fort McHenry had to stop at Mayport, why delay the Bataan? (USS Gunston Hall has been added - no details yet.) They did refuel at sea because of the lack of fuel in Haiti, but the tanker could have gone ot Haiti to refuel these ships later and other ships, too. If a ship was partially loaded then it would have to make a second trip, unbudgeted, and outside of the direct coordination of the admiral, so I get the impression (fear that) the PR value of the US Navy arriving to solve all problems all at once took precedence over getting aid to the area soonest. There are advantages to the man in charge having this whole fleet together because something required by one ship to unload may be carried on another ship. The rush did not allow perfect coordination and the uncertainty of conditions on Haiti makes planning probamatical. The troops should have been able to move faster than the others (the cargo is self propelled), but maybe the tents for a canvas city they are supposed to assemble may have been arriving later and the bulldozers to level the site, and run septic lines are on a third ship. If the troops arrived first, then they might have been diverted to moving rubble by hand to keep them busy and be worn and not be immediately available to move/setup the tents. You always have to back the man on the scene with the responsibility for making decisions. But my studies in military actions show that such considerations too frequently influence the mission.
Fastest response would have been air dropping tents, kitchens, hospitals, water purification equipment. but the Army and Air Force was heavily committed to two Asian wars and the task was given to the Navy to help with an island. Large numbers of specialists are not available and the locals have no skills and with no certainty they could be mobilized into a work force, or not steal medical /kitchen/machine equipment during the few days before the Marines arrive by ship. And they would have to be fed, housed, and taught -- capabilities able to be efficiently done when the fleet arrives. The natives canít even bury the dead, let alone fix the power lines. This is a bad situation for the commander that has no one right answer to all the factors, conditions, and unknowns.
16 January, Sunday
Good article from Admiral about problems from his viewpoint. I appreciated his evaluation of the terrain Ė jungle and mountains. Nothing like flat Iowa farmland.
I was appalled last night to hear that his task was to support rescue -- from the air. His "city" can support utilities, but is not mentioned. You will note that we did not send any freighters with supplies. Quick delivery of emergency supplies is an Air Force task -- tents, hospitals, kitchens with food and well drilling/water purification --but no airfields to receive it !? For the navy to load a whole ship will take over a week, not be complete, and then transit of another week, well after the trapped quake victims are all dead. Navy transports can haul in supplies and the troops will be able to serve food, setup temp/tent housing and operate some basic heavy equipment. Marines can supply security; army provides government functions of police and coordination -- both in addition to providing cleanup manpower that can read, follow orders, and stick to the task.
Other ships must be loaded with building supplies and such things not in military inventory, Army engineers and Navy CBs (construction battalions) will fix pubic structures such as electric, water, sewage, and repair roads, bridges, and schools. Rebuilding the city(s) will be a civilian task. The demands for civilian construction (housing, shops) will be met by US and International contractors who will run into construction and union lobbyists for such massive rebuilding ($10 billion from USA; UN is asking for $50B.) will be severe with graft and payoffs . Even the honest companies love cost-plus, the more they spend on rush and frills, the more profit they make, with which to share with politicians (theirs, certainly not ours).
Some twit may decide they need to build a new airfield and a hotel. Better to fix the port and the road infrastructures to bring in the massive amounts for rebuilding and provide alternate points for imports. Just lease and park a cruise ship for the press, executives and politicians A new airfield will be too late to do any good and a port handles more for less expense on a permanent basis. Yes, an improved airfield is required for
the next emergency: how many months to hurricane season?
I still prefer Colin Powell for leadership (a working job) than Clinton-Bush for the US political representation.
Hillary seems to recognise that she could be a disruptive effect and is said to be making a low key visit and not leaving the airport. But I hope she has been granted teeth to get the job done. It may take a while for the book to come out.
15 January ,Friday
I am getting tired of correspondents asking us
where the aid is?. It is a carry over from Katrina
where the aid was supposed to come from the
state of Mississippi and the federal duty had historically
been to come in afterwards with reimbursement.
The real question is wither the feds should have
usurped the states rights and responsibilities, like
not letting the school buses drown instead of carrying
people out of the flood zone. That government
specifically told the Washingtonians that they had
it covered. Ego.
A correspondent rushes into Haiti with his expense
account and laptop and says, "I am here, where is everybody else?"
There is essentially no airport and the harbor cranes have
fallen to block the harbor. Warships travel about
30 miles an hour, navy freighters about 20 mph,
and merchant ships about 10mph. Do the math.
Then add acquisition and loading time to the transit time.
I predict, after the fact, people will say we should
have sent a parachute army in to set up soup kitchens
and field hospitals. Guess what, airborne armies since
WW2 travel by helicopter, not parachute. Only a
small group of pathfinders parachute in to setup
the landing zone. Setting up an airlift takes weeks
to organize. Faster to load a ship, but ships are slower
and then would like to have a port to offload. We are
using helicopter carriers (technically landing ship dock
or LSD), but these are essentially troop carriers, that
have to have the bunks moved and supplies hand carried
into the former berthing spaces (the usual storage space
is filled with arms ). Then manually off-load one helicopter
at a time. We have some landing craft that can take
supplies (or troops) to sand beaches, but then they need
men to unload and roads to carry it into town. They
can also land tanks, but how much equipment can
a tank carry?
A poor country without redundant infrastructure
is awkward. What are the first tasks? -- move bodies so
bulldozer can clear the roads, while landing trucks
and supplies. The navy CBs and army engineers
are preparing to move construction equipment by air.
Their first task must be to enhance the airfield, maybe gouge out a dirt strip, and to build other, helo landing sites. Bulldozers cannot be helo lifted to ships enroute. Cranes are required to load/unload heavy equipment, which means rebuilding the harbor. More awkwardness.
The other half of the island is Santa Domingo. A reporter whose plane was diverted there says there is one mountain road connecting the two. Preliminary task is to survey bridges to be sure they will not collapse under load. What will our omniscient correspondents say if US troops are rebuilding a road miles from where human interest stories are taking place?
No local government is like New Orleans, no organization to logically plan the needed sequence.
Will remain confused until a US Army general is put in charge with approval of the Haiti government. Wonder if that will happen? Do we have a black general officer with
diplomacy experience besides Colin Powell? Obama would be smart to ask him to do it !!!
14 January, Thursday
The press is not reporting, but I check the USN website every day for news, http://www.news.navy.mil/
and an aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vincent, was exercising off the east coast and is on the way. He flew off her aircraft this morning and took on helicopters from Jacksonville. Her nuclear generator
should be able to restore electricity to the city. I estimate 23 hours transit time, from yesterday
till about now -- except the powerlines are down and no doubt many transformers blew up during the quake, so to what does the ship attach her electric cable? Also three heliocopter aircarft carriers.
One will no doubt be carrying marines, USS Bataan, to deliver their field supplies and to do salvage work. A second, USS Carter Hall, has been ordered to help. Their hospitals are able to handle a great number of combat casualties, so are particularly appropriate for crushing wounds. And the third , USS Fort McHenry, this morning was being loaded with relief supplies at Norfolk. If she sails this afternoon, then supplies can be unloaded overnight tomorrow and MASH-like units setup by Sat morning. There is no civilian government in Haiti worth talking about, so it just like going into a combat zone.
Note : This period that it takes for supplies to arrive is why survivalists always have a "72-hour pack" of food and other needs. The east coast USN hospital ship has been activated, each is on 72-hour standby, hires a civilan crew, and boards navy doctors and staff.
Back to : WW2 Pacific