Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fresh from New Orleans: FEMA is 'rotten' but 'US military is magnificent'

Corresponding by Blackberry from just outside New Orleans, my friend reports this morning that US mililtary forces at the disaster zone are not only efficient at what they do, but are raising people's spirits with their idealism, initiative and cheer.

FEMA, he says, is still "worse than useless" as far as he can see. This shows again how politicians and bureaucrats remain part of the problem in dealing with disasters, including terrorism. Army Special Forces and a Marine came close to punching out some FEMA operatives.

Here's what my friend says today from his ever-survivable Blackberry:

I would like to say that south Louisiana is recovering from Katrina. It will be a long hard process, but life is beginning to enter the 1930s at least.

We have power and air conditioning where I live, but no land phone and no internet.

The US military is magnificent. Yesterday, I was in New Orleans and the Army presence there is heavy, especially the 82nd Airborne. Not only are the troops providing security (ever heard of the old saying “cop on every corner?” Try 4 soldiers on every corner and I mean EVERY corner), but they are helping with everything at every level. These young people clearly want to help.

They are cheerful, motivated and good-hearted folks. They make us laugh when we need to laugh and they cry with us when we cry. These gentle, humanitarian warriors are truly God's gift to America. Today I was in Slidell, LA, a small bedroom community about 20 miles east of me. Slidell had the eye pass directly overhead. It is truly devastated.

Well, 400 US Marines have brought hope, hard work and joy to Slidell. The residents cannot get over how great the Marines are. The mayor said that they seem to work 24 hours a day and knew what to do and what was needed as soon as they rolled into town. They didn't wait to be asked, they just started putting the town back together, clearing the roads, feeding the people and providing shelter for the homeless.
This is in stark contrast to FEMA, which is worse than useless. Both a Marine LTCOL and a SF E7 I talked to have nearly come to blows with FEMA personnel, who drive around in Ford Expeditions wearing baseball caps and polo shirts and talking on cell phones. Their main mission seems to be to try to rein in the magnificent men and women of the US Military and assert their authority. Fortunately, the guys in green outnumber them hundreds to one and pretty much ignore them.

I would expect some victims to have harsh words about FEMA (my own experience with them has been poor) but when troops on the ground badmouth them, you know something is rotten.

Almost as impressive as the people the military has sent here are the assets. In New Orleans yesterday you literally could not hold a conversation due to the noise from the helicopters flying overhead. There are every type from every branch. Yesterday I saw UH60s, SH60s, CH53s, CH47s, UH1s, CH46s, and OH58s. Some were carrying sling loads of cargo. Some were performing search and rescue, some were carrying sandbags to plug the hole in the levees. Others were ferrying personnel and clearly visible water bottles back and forth.

Without the US military helicopters, people would still be perishing every day.


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