Lack of planes keep Bragg soldiers from Haiti

Staff writerJanuary 15, 2010 

— As conditions deteriorate in Haiti, hundreds of troops from the 82nd Airborne Division ready to provide disaster aid to the island nation are temporarily stuck at Fort Bragg because the military's planes are tied up on other missions.

"They're ready to deploy," Maj. Brian Fickel, spokesman for the 82nd, said of about 800 members of the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "Unfortunately, we have a finite amount of resources — that's aircraft involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and everything else," including thousands of troops from other U.S. bases trying to get to Haiti to help. "Right now, we are waiting for aircraft to be assigned to our mission."

Fickel recalled a similar problem when the 82nd was sent to Louisiana to help out after Hurricane Katrina.

"When something like this happens, we need all the resources available, instantly, at one place at one time. And that's simply not reality," he said. "Across the Department of Defense, there's just so many resources, and they have to be prioritized across all our missions."

After Katrina, Fickel said, rather than wait for aircraft, the 82nd chose instead to drive themselves to Louisiana, in a convoy of more than 1,000 military vehicles. "It was faster than waiting for planes," he said.

But they can't drive to Haiti, and so the troops remain on standby, ready to report as soon as planes are sent to Pope Air Force Base to pick them up. The soldiers are packed and have been given the necessary vaccinations.

About 100 soldiers from the 82nd left for Haiti on Thursday.

The others expected to leave this morning. Fickel said he expects them to be able to deploy this afternoon.

All the troops take three days worth of provisions with them, Fickel said. After that, they will need food and water, which the military also has to get into the country.

All those logistics are still being worked out, Fickel said, along with plans for sending any heavy equipment or vehicles that might be needed and any additional troops.

Ultimately, the entire 2nd Brigade, about 3,500 people, have been told they should be ready to deploy to Haiti if they're needed.

"Everyone at Fort Bragg wants to get down there as fast as possible to help," Fickel said. "We say we want to get in the fight. In this case, that's to provide assistance. But we understand that this is a very fluid situation. It's logistically a very difficult task to get us down there, and everyone at every level is working as hard as they can to get us down there." or 919-829-8989

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