Op-Ed

Ground Truth Puerto Rico

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The Ground Truth Puerto Rico

A Real Perspective On Real Relief Efforts From Someone Who Is Really There

David Reeder – Cover Image by Carolyn Cole/LA Times/Polaris

Never, ever, did I think we’d be quoting the Huffington Post, but here we are. They’ve published an article that directly counters ongoing criticism of relief efforts after Hurricane Maria.

This is the truth on the ground in Puerto Rico. It’s plain as balls on a bulldog if you care to look.

“As a Puerto Rican, I can tell you that the problem has nothing to do with the U.S. military, FEMA, or the DoD. The aid is getting to Puerto Rico. The problem is distribution. The federal government has sent us a lot of help; moving those supplies, in particular, fuel, is the issue right now.”  Col. Michael A. Valle, 101 ASOG

Col. Michael A. “Torch” Valle is OIC of at least one element of Hurricane Maria relief efforts. His formal billet is Director JACCE (Joint Air Component Coordination Element), 101st Air and Space Operations Group, 1st Air Force. He is from Puerto Rico and spoke while working in Puerto Rico.

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Valle, Northcom Joint Air Component Coordinator, looks out of the window of a WC-130E Hercules Sept. 29, 2017 as it flies over northern Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airmen 1st Class Nicholas Dutton)

It’s reasonable to think he is a reliable source of information about operations on the island — certainly more so than a pundit half a continent away.

According to his and many other reports, the greatest challenge to relief efforts in Puerto Rico is distribution, not supplies, materiel, or manpower. The road network is in tatters. Harbor facilities have been wrecked. There are limits to what rotary air assets can deliver, and there’s only so much physical space for the rescuers themselves.

Let’s look at what’s actually happening. There are 2/6 Marines from the 26th MEU conducting route clearance to open roads. There are cargo aircraft from all over NORTHCOM in constant rotation to the island. A hospital ship and other USN and USCG vessels are on the way to join those already there. Medical teams are being flown in by helos of the 101st. Generators, food, and other materiel is marshaled at Pope Army Air Field after being brought in from as far away as California by the 22nd Airlift Squadron. Canadian Air Force CC-177s are hauling mobile AM/FM/SMS radio broadcasting stations in so FEMA can disseminate information. Urban SAR personnel of the NYPD and FDNY are on the ground.

Think about that. Set aside Carmen Cruz’s histrionics. Grasp the scale of what is in motion. You can’t just miracle food, power, and medicine in. You need basic infrastructure and time.

This is about logistics and pragmatism. It shouldn’t be something partisan opportunists use to portray governmental/DoD failure unless there’s governmental/DoD failure — and if there is failure, then it needs to be corrected because people need help, not to score political points. A lot of people have pounced on the opportunity to criticize the Trump administration’s orchestration of relief efforts like a duck on a junebug, by most reports completely unfairly…and that accomplishes what for the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, exactly?

Demagoguery, which isn’t unique to either side of the aisle, is rarely if ever constructive. In this particular case it’s a completely unnecessary and shameful distraction to what ought to be a non-partisan surge of sympathy and support.

Read the original Huffpost story in its entirety right here.

You can stay current on the DoD’s relief efforts here on the Department of Defense website: https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/DoD-Hurricane-Relief/.

NORTHCOM is posting updates frequently on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NoradNorthcom.

Track what FEMA has to say here: https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-maria

This was brought to you today by EOTech, a member of JTF Awesome.

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Reeder Profile Picture 5About the Author: It might not be too surprising that David Reeder, who never met a $50 word he didn’t like, one of the “leaders” of the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous Breach Bang Clear team — insomuch as they have a leader (the terms orchestra conductor and rodeo clown are equally apropos). A former POG who tastes like chicken, Reeder cannot play the harmonica. He founded Breach-Bang-Clear quite accidentally at his young son’s behest several years ago. He is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, he was an O/C at the National Homeland Security Training Center for many years and a longtime MOUT instructor at the Bold Lighting UWS. Reeder has appeared on Fox News Business and written for a number of publications, from US News & World Report and Military.com to RECOIL Magazine and Soldier Systems Daily. All of that sounds way cooler than it actually is. You can read more about him here. Follow his banality on Instagram, @davidreederwrites.

“I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me” Hunter S. Thompson
“Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.” T.S. Elliot
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin

Firelance-Reeder

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9 Comments

  1. Spoke with a friend aboard a USCG vessel that was approaching PR from the southwest in the hours as Maria was making landfall, they were onstation as the storm was leaving PR’s north shore, USN had ships there and were putting material and personnel ashore in the immediate aftermath. Trump did lead by example, he put the orders down the chain of command which put the boots and materials on the ground. And he will never get credit for it from media or opposition(same thing) in America.

    1. What, Trump actually did something well here is the recognition that he deserves for doing his job – clap clap clap – now if we could just get him to do the myriad of other things that needs to be done in between ridiculous tweets!

      Just because people actually are critical of him because he does not do his job nor shows the capacity to do it does not make them opposition or the media opposition, it just makes them thinking citizens and an active press that is doing what they are supposed to do. Before you make a statement about Obama and how they never were critical of him well then you need to check your facts as they were but Obama is a smart and capable president even if you may not like some of his policies unlike the current occupant in the white house. Thank God Mattes and Kelly are there to provide some supervision.

  2. Returned Thursday from a week long US&R mission on the island. Agree with Col. Valle’s assessment, but would add my frustration with the local government’s lack of response. Understand the need to take secure your own family first, but as the week went on we still did not see workers from the municipal level out in their communities. Rereading this sounds harsh, PR suffered the largest scale devastation I have ever seen in 2 decades of public service. My heart goes out to all who suffered. That said, time to get to work putting your house in order.

    I worked Hurricane Harvey a few weeks prior and the sense of duty to the community felt higher. First responders who knew their homes were wrecked secured their families with friends and other family and went back to work for a week at a time knowing that restoring lines of communication would benefit both their family and the community.

    Maybe I just didn’t see it, but that sense of duty felt absent in Puerto Rico. Hell, our last day of running missions we were making contact and assessing needs in communities that had not seen anyone from local or state government since the storm hit. We became the eyes and ears of the Puerto Rican government, which we didn’t mind because we were capable and hungry for work, but became frustrating when you make contact with one of the 12 EOC’s and asked them for their needs and they didn’t know because they had not put boots on the ground. It felt like the government had taken the hit from Maria and quit, rolled over and was waiting for the Feds to come and take over.

    The heart warming stories came from the small rural communities themselves. One town who hadn’t seen their officials since the storm rallied together for each other… when in charge take charge, right? So they inventoried the town’s water supply, and for every 6 bottles of water a family had they donated one to keep nursing mothers hydrated. Things like that were happening all over the island.

    Well I rambled on. Guess I was defusing. Great story, and thanks for making me click on a Huffington Post link.

  3. If the roads are impassable, trucks unusable, drivers unavailable, air insufficient, then perhaps they should think about resorting to pre-modern methods. My father was in Italy in WWII with the 10th Mountain Div, they moved all supplies from rear echelon depots to the front lines by mule train. Damaged roads, rough terrain? No problem for mules. For that matter the Mexican cartels move tons of drugs across the border into the US on the backs of human mules, 50 miles is common for these trips, Puerto Rico is only 40 miles across at its widest. No mules, no horses? Shank’s mare. Organize some volunteers to hump supplies out to remote areas. Must be a couple of hundred thousand people within 5 miles of the port in San Juan.

    1. My grandfather was also with the 10th Mtn in Italy. I’ve heard the stories of transporting supplies and even pack-howitzers with mules.

  4. “completely unnecessary and shameful distraction to what ought to be a non-partisan surge of sympathy and support.”

    Tell that to president snowflake.
    What was that thing again? About leading by example? Twitler probably never heard of the concept.

      1. 2hotel9 another one of trumps deplorables who, support him no matter what stupid things he says – guess trump can only feel so sorry for groups because they knew what they were getting into and this from a poor fat ass with shin splints or some other such malady. What are you talking about by the way?

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