by DAVID AXE
Air Force Special Forces from Hulburt Field, Florida, were some of the first U.S. government personnel to respond following Haiti’s devastating earthquake this week. “Airmen from the 1st Special Operations Wing and from the 720th Special Operations Group opened up the Port au Prince airport and started bringing in supplies there,” said Major Jason Daniels from the 720th.
But the airmen quickly ran into problems, Lieutenant Colonel Brett Nelson from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron said on Wednesday.
There are only two fuel trucks and two tow bars available at Port au Prince Airport, so when an aircraft lands and requires fuel or requires to be — has to be moved around on the airfield by towing, it significantly delays us processing that aircraft and getting it back out. At one point today we had 44 aircraft on the ground and in various stages of offloading equipment and onloading evacuees, and we continue to work that.
The airport is rapidly becoming a major bottleneck in relief efforts. So a follow-on force of U.S. Marines, due to set sail from the U.S. East Coast on Saturday, is prepared to conduct an amphibious “assault” onto a Haitian beach, avoiding the airport entirely, according to Captain Clark Carpenter, from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The three-vessel force with 2,000 Marines, centered on the USS Bataan assault ship, is carrying three air-cushion landing craft plus five conventional landing craft and several heavylift helicopters. “We can find a beach and set up a place where we can place supplies ashore,” Carpenter said.
The Marines’ plan puts into perspective speculation that the Pentagon might reduce amphibious assault forces in the forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review.