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Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Islands Require Military Logistics Operations Long-Term

Sept. 27, 2017 (EIRNS)—The scale of support for the millions of bereft people in the Caribbean requires a military-logistics effort. This is underway now in the emergency phase of food, water, generators, and medical support. But it also applies to the next phase of rebuilding basic infrastructure, and creating conditions for economic life.

This differs from Texas and Florida, where outside support can still be ’plugged’ into the commercial and institutional structures, however much they were physically broken down. But in Puerto Rico, for example, these structures are near non-existent.

A top electrical engineer with Virginia-based Dominion Energy, with decades of experience in disasters, stressed this aspect. He said that, sure, out-of-state brigades of utility workers can go into Texas and Florida and assist. Dominion Energy’s relief crew, for example, just returned to Virginia from Florida on Sept. 23.

But in Puerto Rico there must be a full-scale military operation there, in all respects, and over time. Send in cargo ships and planes, full of transformers, power lines, electrical fixtures and equipment of all kinds. There must be housing for the crew, and heavy construction equipment. On the ground, provide for the needs of the people, from food and water, to housing and work. There must be security.

Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford alluded to this yesterday in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He answered the Senators’ many specific questions about what aid the military is providing currently. But Dunford stressed that the military has to think of "next week," and how to look "over the horizon." Right now,

"Northern Command continues to conduct 24-hour operations aggressively conducting search and rescue operations, bringing additional essential commodities to the islands, and restoring power at hospitals, ports, airports and other critical facilities."

Pres. Trump, at a White House meeting yesterday, said that there must be "long term" support.

Some of the current operations:

  • U.S. Northern Command announced late Sept. 26 that it would identify "and the Joint Staff will source, a larger sustainment force package" to expand aid to the island. In addition, NORTHCOM is going to "establish a Land Component Commander-Forward in Puerto Rico and will have that commander on the ground there within 24 hours." It will be commanded by BG Rich Kim, deputy commander of U.S. Army North, who was to arrive today.

  • As of 5:00 p.m. Sept. 26, there were 3,800 troops and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) civilians at work in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, with 16 helicopters and 8 more on the way, along with 520 trucks.

  • The USACE has more than 750 personnel engaged. Temporary emergency power assessments are underway in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • The USACE is performing critical assessments as requested by FEMA. USACE estimates that 30,000 roofs are damaged.

  • The U.S. National Guard Bureau’s (NGB) priorities are moving food and water to those in need, augmenting local law enforcement to ensure community safety, and engineer support to help rebuild essential infrastructure.

  • The National Guard and the USACE are also working alongside the FAA to restore full operations at all of the airports in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to include providing emergency electrical power to control towers and radar facilities. If all goes according to plan, aircraft movements per hour could increase from 18 to 36.

  • The Naval hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort is to deploy to Puerto Rico. It is expected to depart Norfolk, Va. within the next few days and take about five days to get there. Its 65-person crew will be augmented by a 1200-person medical staff. The Comfort is equipped with 1,000 patient beds, 12 operating rooms, and the full range of medical services.

  • DoD is also sourcing medical capabilities to include a medical/surgical treatment facility with 50-bed inpatient care, ambulances, five medical teams, airlift for civilian ambulance capabilities, and, for St. Croix, a 50-bed medical/surgical facility.

  • Eleven of 69 hospitals in Puerto Rico have fuel or power. USACE is moving forward with hospital power, using generators acquired by the Defense Logistics Agency and shipped by military air transport.