Hurricane Response

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Mustang ’09, a veteran National Guard soldier from Minnesota now serving in Iraq, has something to point out to those who say the military response to the Gulf Coast hurricane was too slow.

There seems to be a perception that the National Guard is available at a moment’s 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.

If there’s one lesson that ought to stick in everyone’s head after this disaster, it’s that if something like this happens to you, help eventually will get there. But for the first few days — maybe a week — you’ll be on your own. Are you ready?

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