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Experts Refute Misinformation Regarding Trump and Puerto Rico

Oct. 2, 2017 (EIRNS)—Refutations of the Trump Administration’s alleged incompetence regarding the response to the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico began to emerge at the end of last week. Two experts, one currently involved in the effort, and another with past extensive involvement in similar operations, both thoroughly refuted the notion, widely spread in the news media, that the Trump Administration is not responding adequately to the unfolding crisis.

"It’s picture-perfect devastation. The hurricane came through the middle of the island. 100% of the island is without power. As a Puerto Rican, it troubles me to hear the misinformation about the crux of the issue."

This was Colonel Michael A. Valle, U.S. Air Force, Commander, 101st Air and Space Operations Group, and Director of the Joint Air Component Coordination Element, 1st Air Force, and a native of Puerto Rico, speaking as both a military professional deeply involved in coordinating the military relief effort and as someone with family and a deep personal stake in what’s happening on the island. Valle spoke to the Huffington Post on Sept. 29. He is quite angry about the misinformation being spread about Trump and the federal/military effort, by the anti-Trump opportunists.

"It’s just not true," Col. Valle says of the major disconnect today between the perception of a lack of response from Washington versus what is really transpiring on the ground.

"I have family here. My parents’ home is here. My uncles, aunts, cousins, are all here. As a Puerto Rican, I can tell you that the problem has nothing to do with the U.S. military, FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Administration], or the DoD [U.S. Department of Defense]."

Valle goes on to point out that the problem isn’t getting relief supplies to the island, but getting them distributed. This is because of the lack of truck drivers. The truck drivers aren’t going to work, because they’re dealing with the same conditions as everyone else.

"They can’t get to work, the infrastructure is destroyed, they can’t get fuel themselves, and they can’t call us for help, because there’s no communication. The will of the people of Puerto Rico is off the charts. The truck drivers have families to take care of, many of them have no food or water. They have to take care of their family’s needs before they go off to work, and once they do go, they can’t call home,"

explains Colonel Valle.

"Yes, people are in need of food and water and medical supplies and power; I personally know the people here, and they are very grateful for what we are doing. I’m passionate and I’m proud of the response. We did the same response for Hurricane Irma in Florida as for Puerto Rico with Maria,"

Col Valle says.

"As a Puerto Rican, what happens here for the people is personal to me. To say that we are not providing all of the help and resources needed is just not true. Distribution is the key, and we are working day and night on it. I’m here, my own family is here, I know how hard this is. We need to keep doing what we are doing. It’s going to take the resource of time."

Another refutation comes from retired Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, a man with a lengthy resume filled with professional qualifications and academic credentials, including expertise in disaster response, and who is now the director of the Navy History Center in Washington, D.C. He surprised his Bloomberg News interviewer by telling him that the criticism of Trump is not justified at all.

"First of all, there was a fair amount of anticipatory action that is not being recognized," he said in the Sept. 30 interview.

"Amphibious ships, including the light amphibious carriers Kearsarge and Wasp and the amphibious landing ship dock Oak Hill, were at sea and dispatched to Puerto Rico ahead of the hurricane’s impact."

The fact that these ships are designed to send and support Marines in operations ashore also makes them excellent platforms for supporting disaster-relief operations, because of their capacity to operate aircraft and their well decks, from which landing craft can be sent to shore with up to 150 tons of cargo.

The hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort, while sporting a huge medical capability, lacks the ability to operate landing craft and has only limited helicopter capability, so it has to be pier side to be most effective. The ship was designed to support large military operations and it take times to prepare it to go to sea; it is not, Hendrix stressed, an "emergency response" ship.

"Given that there was no certainty where the hurricane would hit, it doesn’t make sense to have readied her prior to its impact," Hendrix said.