[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

17008: Leiderman: Guantanamo, not so long ago (fwd)

From: Stuart M Leiderman <leidermn@cisunix.unh.edu>


Soldiers [magazine]

December 1994 Volume 49, No. 12

Keeping Up With the Numbers

Story and Photos by SFC Douglas Ide

LOGISTICS Task Force 64 began June 16 with a modest 70 soldiers and three
civilians. As part of Joint Task Force 160, it had deployed to Guantanamo
Bay Naval Base, Cuba, to assist in Haitian relief operations.

It has since grown to more than 400 personnel, but the number of its
charges has grown considerably higher.

"We came here with a much smaller mission," said Maj. Howell Scott, the
operation's first logistics task force commander. "We were looking to feed
about 2,500 people max, as well as provide all of the health and comfort

The task force was soon overwhelmed, though, as Haitians began fleeing
Haiti by the thousands. "We went from taking in about 100 people a day,
which was fairly easy, to the next day taking in 1,000, then 2,000," said
Scott. "One day we took in almost 3,000."

The task force did not have the luxury of an influx of its own. Supply
shortages began straining the system as the task force dipped deeply into
its reserves. "It takes a while to push that much stuff down here," said
Scott in July. "We had only enough materials for about 5,000 people. We've
had more than 17,000 people come through."

The number of migrants has more than doubled since then; just when the
influx of Haitians subsided, Cubans began fleeing their country. They were
also brought to Guantanamo Bay, bringing the number of migrants to more
than 43,000 by the end of September.

The logistical support necessary for the number of Haitians and Cubans is
enormous, said Capt. Robert Irwin, who commands the task force made up of
supply, maintenance and laundry sections. The task force includes a truck
platoon, a quartermaster platoon, an engineer unit, a reverse osmosis
water purification unit barge and 183 cooks. Many of the sections are
composite units.

"We've got 33 or 34 different units represented here," said LTF-64 1st
Sgt. Brian Henley. Included are troops from Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Bragg,
N.C.; Fort Eustis, Va.; Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort
Belvoir, Va.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and Fort Hood, Texas.

Next to the large military police contingent in JTF-160, the cooks
probably have more to do with keeping the migrants comfortable than does
any other section. "The main thing that they're worried about right now is
chow," said Pvt. 2 Marco Beltran, a Spanish-speaking 1st Battalion, 12th
Infantry, soldier from Fort Carson, Colo.  Beltran helped translate for
Cuban migrants and task force personnel.

The 183 cooks were pumping out three hot meals a day for nearly 14,000
Haitians as of Sept. 27, and were gearing up to do the same for the nearly
30,000 Cubans, said Irwin. That meant each cook was feeding almost 240
migrants, Irwin pointed out.

The ratio of soldiers to migrants was even greater among supply soldiers,
with 30 personnel supporting more than 43,000 migrants.

"We've requisitioned supplies in excess of $100 million since we've been
here," said supply and service officer in charge 2nd Lt. Byron Turner, who
added that the resupply lines were flowing smoothly. But the 21-day
"turn-around," from the date supplies were ordered to when they were
delivered, was strained when there were unexpected arrivals of large
numbers of migrants, he said.

"My operation was initially established to support 12,500 migrants," said
Turner. "Once the number of Haitians jumped, they beefed me up with 20
additional personnel, which gave us the capability of sustaining 30,000
migrants. But now the number is up to 45,000. The supply we had on hand
was just for 30,000. When it ran up to 45,000, that put an emergency back
on the system."

The large number of migrants hasn't been the only obstacle to confront the
task force. A hurricane alert forced the temporary closure of the galleys
and laundry unit, which was augmenting the base laundry facilities. And
Cuban demonstrations have closed down the galley dedicated to feeding
them more than once. But lack of personnel has been the operation's most
challenging obstacle.

Logistics personnel have had to work without days off for the first few
months of the mission. "We can't afford it," said Henley. "We have so many
missions coming down that we need everybody to support them. We're still
trying to catch up in some areas."

Adds CWO 3 Stephen Stovall, in charge of the task force's maintenance
sections, "As the migrant population has grown here, we've never had the
support people grow with the need."

Each section, or "slice," supports far more migrants than its size would
indicate. Stovall said the maintenance team originally deployed to support
2,500 Haitians. Irwin said that the original task force had 29 cooks; they
fed some 16,000 Haitians before more cooks arrived.

Even the laundry unit -- the only LTF slice that supports the JTF-160
soldiers instead of the migrants -- is supporting far more people than
originally intended. Its original mission was to support 1,000 task force
personnel, said OIC 1st Lt. Theodore White. By the end of September, more
than 6,500 task force personnel were in Cuba.

The scarcity of personnel has pushed sections to help each other.
Mechanics and military police helped the supply section bundle sundry
packs for the migrants, and truck drivers helped MPs feed the migrants
after delivering the food to the camps. "Everybody's working their butts
off," said Irwin.

Added Stovall, "The soldiers are getting the job done. If it wasn't for
their ability and their initiative, this place wouldn't move."

- - - - - - -

Stuart Leiderman
Environmental Response