August 14, 2003

Military Logistics

A soldier in an MP company in Iraq:

European and Pacific Stars & Stripes: Heat casualties: My name is Pfc. John Bendetti. I'm assigned to the 220th Military Police Company with the Colorado Army National Guard. We arrived in Kuwait one month before the war started. Just before the war ended, we were sent to Iraq. We arrived during the "winter" months. We've been living at Tallil Air Base. We're currently living off Meals, Ready to Eat, T-rations, and junk food from the local post exchange. We're also currently living without air conditioning. During the day the temperature reaches 127 degrees in the shade.

Due to more attacks on convoys, more items are becoming rare. Two examples are mail and bottled water. Our mail has been reduced to two times a week. Due to a lack of bottled water, each soldier has been limited to two 1.5 liter bottles a day. We've had two soldiers drop out due to heat-related injuries. A person with common sense knows that a normal person can't survive on three liters of water a day. One would think that the Army could coordinate with the Air Force and have supplies flown in from Kuwait. All I'm saying is that we've been "climatized" to the heat, but new troops have not. There will continue to be more heat casualties until something is done.

Hopefully we won't have to lose someone because of someone's stupidity. We need to come up with a solution quick!

Pfc. John Bendetti
Tallil, Iraq

Phil Carter of INTELDUMP responds from hisun-air-conditioned dwelling place in Los Angeles:

INTEL DUMP: PFC Bendetti mentions that he only gets two 1.5 liter bottles of water a day. Again, I don't dispute this fact -- I've seen it in Pentagon press briefings, and I've talked to Army logisticians who say this is true. But what he doesn't say is that his unit also has a supply of unbottled water -- "tap" water if you will.... I know, I know... I'm a hard a** because I think soldiers should drink water from their "water buffaloes" instead of from a plastic bottle. Heaven forbid soldiers should drink "tap" water instead of bottled water. But this boils down to a simple matter of military logistics.... America has a finite amount of "strategic lift".... Water, at 8 pounds/gallon, is very heavy... it's incredibly inefficient to move it by air. That's why the Army has "reverse osmosis water purification units", or "ROWPUs", and other means for producing water in the field. Granted, the water doesn't taste as good as Evian.... We'd all love to drink bottled water, but until the French decide to donate Evian by the pallet and the airlift to get it to Iraq, that's not going to be a viable option...

Posted by DeLong at August 14, 2003 09:46 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Notice that total fatalities are twice what the military lists as combat fatalities. Extreme heat is not a smug safe little jokester's matter.

Fatalities:

American soldiers 127
British soldiers 11
---
138 Since May 2

American 266
British 44
---
310 Since March 20

Note: American forces have risen to 148,000
British forces have been cut from 10,000 to 5,000

Posted by: lise on August 14, 2003 09:58 AM

http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~pkrugman/heat.html

Stars and Stripes

It frustrates me that those who want to tell soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq to buck up are in the U.S. or Germany. None of them knows what it’s really like out here. I’m tired of people like the writer of the letter “Attitude appalling” (July 20) who say that noncommissioned officers’ attitudes out here are appalling. I’ll tell reader’s what’s appalling: The way officers, especially upper-level officers, have stripped NCOs of their ability to take care of their soldiers and give them direction. Why would the Army’s backbone, the NCO Corps, have its soldiers puzzled and perplexed at this deployment/war? It’s because the ones in power are the officers, and they’ve drawn us all out here into this conflict without a real mission just to fulfill their need for promotion or recognition.

There are thousands of soldiers in Kuwait who were never supposed to be here. My unit was told that we weren’t supposed to be here. We were told by a lieutenant colonel on our second day in country that we were supposed to demobilize and return home. We asked if we could return. He laughed and said, “No. We got you here. Now we will find something for you.” As with tens of hundreds of other units, we were without a mission. How do readers think our morale was as of day two in country, let alone all the other units that sat here waiting for a job but never got one? Like us, they are still waiting for a way home.

I feel bad for 3rd Infantry Division soldiers and everyone on this deployment. We got shafted by upper-level officers who don’t care about their soldiers’ well-being and are so selfish that they’d mobilize battalions and battalions of soldiers who are not needed and have no mission. Then those officers return home without their soldiers, who are stuck in country with new officers who want to get theirs and are thinking of themselves, not their soldiers.

It is so much worse. If I could only find the words to describe the harsh reality here in Kuwait and Iraq, I would. Politics and selfishness are at the lead of this nation-building operation, the complete opposite of all Army values.

So the next time anyone wants to slam NCOs or any other soldiers for the situation that we’re in, they shouldn’t blame us. They should look at the big picture and see what hell we live in out here. They have no right to sit in Germany or the States and judge us and our conditions.

Spc. Jason K. Sapp
Kuwait

Posted by: lise on August 14, 2003 10:00 AM

July 14, 2003

Some soldiers in Iraq want a drinking pack invented for a bike race as a part of their combat equipment.
By Sabra Chartrand (NYT)

ABSTRACT - CamelBak Products Inc, which makes custom backpacks that serve as personal water-carrying and drinking systems, is receiving letters asking that it donate CamelBaks to troops in Iraq who do not have them; CamelBak system started as recreational product, and company introduced one for military market only after learning that special forces were buying them and sneaking them into their equipment.

Posted by: lise on August 14, 2003 10:08 AM

http://www.pkarchive.org/

August 12, 2003

Thanks for the M.R.E.'s
By PAUL KRUGMAN - NYTimes

A few days ago I talked to a soldier just back from Iraq. He'd been in a relatively calm area; his main complaint was about food. Four months after the fall of Baghdad, his unit was still eating the dreaded M.R.E.'s: meals ready to eat. When Italian troops moved into the area, their food was "way more realistic" — and American troops were soon trading whatever they could for some of that Italian food.

Other stories are far worse. Letters published in Stars and Stripes and e-mail published on the Web site of Col. David Hackworth (a decorated veteran and Pentagon critic) describe shortages of water. One writer reported that in his unit, "each soldier is limited to two 1.5-liter bottles a day," and that inadequate water rations were leading to "heat casualties." An American soldier died of heat stroke on Saturday; are poor supply and living conditions one reason why U.S. troops in Iraq are suffering such a high rate of noncombat deaths?

The U.S. military has always had superb logistics. What happened? The answer is a mix of penny-pinching and privatization — which makes our soldiers' discomfort a symptom of something more general....

Posted by: jd on August 14, 2003 10:11 AM

What is most disturbing is why the press refers to 50 some America soldier fatalities in Iraq since May 2, as though the lives of soldiers only count in "defined combat" circumstances.

Posted by: lise on August 14, 2003 10:31 AM

Thanks for the link, Brad. But for what it's worth, my dwelling place has no air conditioning.

Posted by: Phil Carter on August 14, 2003 10:42 AM

Knowing nothing about any of this, I still have a question. These water purification units, are they widespread? Because if some group of soldiers doesn't have access to such a device, maybe it's a situation where they can't drink tap water. Like in Mexico, you just don't drink the tap water (in Beijing, even locals don't drink the tap water without boiling it first. Everyone, everyday, always).

Especially in Iraq, after two wars and 12 years of sanctions, maybe the local water treatment is less than sufficient. Hence, the bottled water.

But like I said, I know not of what I speculate.

Posted by: andrew on August 14, 2003 11:22 AM

Unverifiable, but interesting:

---
Military protocol states that the troops are to be provided with 2 bottles of water daily, equalling 3 liters, and unlimited access to potable water in water buffaloes. Perhaps in theory this protocol may appear sufficient.. but in reality, our sons and daughters are suffering tremendously! Dehydration is rampant, as are dysentery, vomiting, and diarrhea from ingesting the "purified" water in the buffaloes. It is reported this water is like "pool water"... is often quarantined due to problems with the purification process, and is not available in every platoon anyway.
---

http://www.sendyoursupport.org/news.html

And it's not as if the soldiers on patrol in 50C heat can drag a 'water buffalo' behind them anyway. That's why the CamelBak link is pretty noteworthy.

Posted by: nick sweeney on August 14, 2003 11:22 AM

Fatalities:

American soldiers 127
British soldiers 13
---
140 Since May 2

American 266
British 46
---
312 Since March 20

Note: American forces have risen to 148,000
British forces have been cut from 10,000 to 5,000

Posted by: lise F&B on August 14, 2003 11:37 AM

I spent a fortnight last December (our winter) in central Australia. You could not move in a hotel or anywhere else without seeing a sign advising you to drink a litre of water an hour. Because we were travelling in rough country we carried 60 litres on the off chance the van broke down.

The Australian Army says you can lose up to 4 litres of water an hour in greater than 32 C degrees (88 Fahrenheit) so this is a serious oversight. Somehow I doubt that the Iraqi water supply is necessarily something you'd want to rely on.

Posted by: Alan on August 14, 2003 11:47 AM

Basra temperatures have been climbing to 125 degrees. The stress for American and British soldiers from constant danger and harsh summer conditions is intense.

Posted by: dahl on August 14, 2003 11:55 AM

Phil Carter doesn't have a comments section so I'll respond here.

PC tries to show that PK was wrong and did not do his homework yet, at the end, recognizes that "Prof. Krugman and I are actually in agreement about one thing: privatization of military functions can be problematic".

That, of course, was PK's point all along.

PC is correct in that PK examples are not, by themselves, enough to make sweeping generalizations.

So?

That's how columnists work. Safire claimed for months that the famous Atta Prague meeting was a fact and when that turned out to be false and he was asked about it (in Russert's show) he simply dismissed it saying it was hunch.

PC falls into the same trap all the other anti-PK bloggers do. He fixates on the little details, forgetting that a twice-weekly 700 word column is not meant to be an academic paper, and completely fails to address the major point. In this case it turns out he actually agrees with PK's basic point.

Posted by: GT on August 14, 2003 11:55 AM

Phil Carter doesn't have a comments section so I'll respond here.

PC tries to show that PK was wrong and did not do his homework yet, at the end, recognizes that "Prof. Krugman and I are actually in agreement about one thing: privatization of military functions can be problematic".

That, of course, was PK's point all along.

PC is correct in that PK examples are not, by themselves, enough to make sweeping generalizations.

So?

That's how columnists work. Safire claimed for months that the famous Atta Prague meeting was a fact and when that turned out to be false and he was asked about it (in Russert's show) he simply dismissed it saying it was hunch.

PC falls into the same trap all the other anti-PK bloggers do. He fixates on the little details, forgetting that a twice-weekly 700 word column is not meant to be an academic paper, and completely fails to address the major point. In this case it turns out he actually agrees with PK's basic point.

Posted by: GT on August 14, 2003 12:04 PM

Whether one agrees with the war or not is utterly irrelevant here.

These courageous men and women who are risking their necks every single day for the United States deserve the very best the richest nation on earth can offer.

The fact that they are not even receiving food of reasonable quality or adequate water is beyond outrageous. The individuals who allowed this to happen are truly despicable creatures.

Posted by: Pooh on August 14, 2003 12:10 PM

Financial Times
8/11/03

But the growing dependence on such private sector support concerns some military experts. Part of the problem is that contractors are not subject to military discipline and could walk off the job if they felt like it. The only thing the military could do would be to sue the contractor later on - the last thing on the mind of a commander on the battlefield.

This is not just an idle possibility. Since the end of the recent war in Iraq, US army officers have complained that their troops suffered poor living conditions because civilian contractors sometimes failed to show up. Even the mail handled by Halliburton was slow to get through.

"We thought we could depend on industry to perform these kinds of functions," Lt Gen Charles S. Mahan, the Army's logistics chief, was quoted as saying by Newhouse News Service this month. He said it got "harder and harder to get (them) to go in harm's way".

One senior US official says the use of private contractors has "been going on now for at least two decades and it has really intensified lately and has got some of the military planners . . . pulling their hair out". In part, says the official, this is because US military planners are looking at a possible war on the Korean peninsula, one that would be "a more traditional conventional war, if you will, one that will be bloody as hell and fought on cross-compartmental terrain that makes the desert looks like child's play.

"These people can't do that," the official continues. "You've got to have military cooks and military people doing all this logistics tail and so forth. You aren't going to get contractors to go. You have got this situation . . . where better than 20 or 30 per cent of services that used to be done in house by combat trained people are now (done by) contractors."

Posted by: jd Fair and Balanced on August 14, 2003 12:10 PM

Tell me again, what do they exactly mean when they say "Support our troops!" ? Strangely, it does like my type who is protrayed as not supportive cares more of the lives of US soldiers than the supportive type. Please explain, me confused...

Or maybe Dubya should just call the press and declare that "The life of our soldiers in Iraq is improving by the day. This administration believes tax cuts are starting to pay off." Amen.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on August 14, 2003 01:52 PM

Still peddling junk science, this time it's the Krugman "theory" of "dehydration". The professor is now telling us that the human body needs more than three liters of water in hot desert environments.

Just the other day I spent fifteen minutes in a sauna which was at least as hot as anything experienced by our enlisted crybabies in the gulf, and I didn't need no 3 liters of Evian, thank you very much. How do explain that one professor?

Score another one for the Krugman truth squad!

Posted by: Donald Luskin on August 14, 2003 03:56 PM

" There are thousands of soldiers in Kuwait who were never supposed to be here. My unit was told that we weren’t supposed to be here. ... As with tens of hundreds of other units, we were without a mission. How do readers think our morale was as of day two in country, let alone all the other units that sat here waiting for a job but never got one? "

I thought the complaint was that there weren't ENOUGH soldiers in Iraq.

And it seems that the problem with the water shortage is the Army's fault, not private contractors. The usual suspects must be suffering heat exhaustion themselves if they can't keep their stories straight.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on August 14, 2003 04:20 PM

The last thing that the Army wants is food poisoning, so they dump a lot of chlorine into the water buffaloes. It’s potable, just not tasty. Pool water is an apt description. Soldiers don’t drink enough because of the taste. Normally, this isn’t too much of a problem since most exercises last less than a week.

My wife is a food scientist who works for the military. One of her projects last year was researching additives that would make the water more palatable, without getting changing the level of chlorine. Their priorities were very clear; food safety first, price second, taste third. Normally being a guinea pig for her work isn’t bad but this project…

Posted by: chris_a on August 14, 2003 05:25 PM

"I thought the complaint was that there weren't ENOUGH soldiers in Iraq."

Patrick, he said explicitly that he (and many others) weren't IN Iraq -- he was in Kuwait, "waiting for a mission [in Iraq] that never came" and roasting in the heat there without even having anything useful to do.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 14, 2003 07:47 PM

Patrick Sullivan writes:

[responding to a comment from a soldier whose unit was posted to Kuwait without a mission]

> I thought the complaint was that there weren't ENOUGH
> soldiers in Iraq.

Where do you see any contradiction here? While the soldier is complaining about the complacency of the officer core (there must be a cuneiform version of this rant somewhere, by the way :-)), others are pointing out that this (post-)war has been a logistical nightmare. Ideally, I suspect that there should be more troops in Iraq, but it could be very difficult to send them into the land currently missing a lot of infrastructure *and keep them in supply*. On the other hand, it's much easier to keep them supplied in Kuwait, and Lord knows when you actually might need to use them either to relieve other forces or to put down more unpleasantness.

This is not an easy situation. Krugman's argument is that the involvement of private contractors in logistics has, despite suggestions made to the contrary, not helped the situation much. Now, an interesting story I haven't read yet would be why the infrastructure ended up in such horrible shape given that an early goal in the fighting was not to chew it up. There are lots of possibilities, of course, but the planning of the operation should have attempted to meet this contingency if it were to occur. At the moment, I have no idea what the real story on this front is.

Posted by: Jonathan King on August 14, 2003 08:07 PM

" Patrick, he said explicitly that he (and many others) weren't IN Iraq -- he was in Kuwait..."

Oh, that distant country Kuwait. Probably a short helicopter ride away. And, "a logistical nightmare" being that mail only gets delivered a couple times a week! Good grief, what wusses.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on August 15, 2003 08:00 AM

>> And, "a logistical nightmare" being that mail only gets delivered a couple times a week! Good grief, what wusses.

Good grief, how pathetic. Isn't one of the first tactics on the home front generally to ask civilians to send mail and care packages to troops? For 'mail', perhaps you ought to read 'morale': the thing that helps keep soldiers in the field -- and especially those stewing in Kuwait, unable to contribute to the mission -- on top of things. Gosh, even the most insular armchair general has heard of the importance of 'morale' in running an army.

Posted by: nick sweeney on August 15, 2003 08:47 AM

Fatalities:

American soldiers 128
British soldiers 13
---
141 Since May 2

American 267
British 46
---
313 Since March 20

Note: American forces have risen to 148,000
British forces have been cut from 10,000 to 5,000

Posted by: lise on August 15, 2003 09:04 AM

Notice how the sad numbers climbed in a day. Notice how little press coverage there is of the full numbers or even any numbers these days. We need to worry about the soldiers.

Posted by: lise on August 15, 2003 09:13 AM

Notice again how for every "combat" caused fatality, there is another fatality.

Posted by: lise on August 15, 2003 09:28 AM

The Middle East desert is a beautiful place during winter and spring. It is definitely unpleasant in summer.

Most of the soldiers exagerate the conditions ... Next time you watch TV notice the large cylindrical tube that is positioned at the peak of the large tent ceilings. These are A/C ducts which bring A/C into the tents. All USAF pilots and crews sleep in conditioned quarters. I assume that the Army also has similar skid mounted generating units and maybe only a fraction of men have A/C. Many do. Re: Mail. Most installations have computers available to all for EM. Same for telephones and radios. Likewise, much of the routine work is performed by contractors employing "third country nationals (TCNs)". The kitchen cooks, waiters, dishwashers are nominally Filipinos, Chinese, Thais etc. Anyhow that's the way it used to be and I'd imagine a lot has not changed. Maybe our forces need to forget 8-5 job ideas and adopt some sense of the local (11-3 siesta).

Being in war is deadly serious business. But it is a duty most soldiers accept along with their pay and allowances. I support the troops. I think the majority will do the jobs they contracted for. Many civilians have opted for duties in war. Some have it better than the troops, some not as good. It ain't all soldiers. Don't forget: Many of the "contractors and logisticians" are uncomplaining civilians doing their jobs of troop support.

Posted by: Don Majors on August 15, 2003 09:45 AM

After winning the war, we have not focused on building Afghanistan and so conditions there are evidently worsening. We do not appear to have a coherent plan for building Iraq, and have never properly considered how costly building will be. There is still constant danger in Iraq, and I do not see a resolution soon.

Posted by: dahl F&B on August 15, 2003 10:09 AM

"Logistical nightmare" used to describe such as Montgomery and Rommel's problems in North Africa; keeping fast moving troops supplied with ammunition. Or Patton's tanks supplied with gasoline, or the D Day invasion force fed, armed, and equipped. I wonder how many days per week Audie Murphy received mail?

BTW, is lise under the impression that it is a rarity for people to die in wars?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on August 15, 2003 03:07 PM

How many soldiers did we lose after "cessation of hostilities" in Germany and Japan, Patrick?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on August 15, 2003 03:36 PM

Patrick--when are you enlisting? You are obviously under the impression that not only is this a just war, but that it's a paradise.

We're waiting with baited breath you coward.

Posted by: Thumper on August 15, 2003 03:58 PM

But we know that ordinary living conditions are acceptable. We know this because that's what the Iraqis have, and we know that this whole thing made life better for them. Every day in every way things are getting better and better...

By the way, did anyone follow that earlier correspondence about cultural differences and irony? Though I am surprised that no earlier poster considered what life must be like for Iraqis, under these new improved arrangements.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on August 15, 2003 09:44 PM

" 'Patrick, he said explicitly that he (and many others) weren't IN Iraq -- he was in Kuwait...'

"Oh, that distant country Kuwait. Probably a short helicopter ride away. And, "a logistical nightmare" being that mail only gets delivered a couple times a week! Good grief, what wusses."

Dear Patrick, what you were supposedly bitching about was those Awful Ignoramuses who complain that "we don't have enough soldiers in IRAQ", to do little things like peacekeeping. If we're keeping them, for some mysterious reason, in Kuwait instead, it's a wee bit hard to see how they're going to be able to do anything effective in Iraq, except possibly through telekinesis. However, they CAN do quite a good job of roasting in either country.

In short, Sullivan appears to be an absolute master of cognitive dissonance.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on August 16, 2003 02:02 AM
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