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For Fort Bragg unit heading to Haiti, it's hurry up and wait

Humanitarian efforts have begun across the world in response to the devastating earthquake that struck near Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince late Tuesday, Jan. 12. U.N. officials say an accurate count of those killed in the 7.0-magnitude quake might never be known.

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By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 17, 2010; 12:39 PM

POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- It is the phrase the military is known for: Hurry up and wait.

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And it is very evident here in an airplane hangar where 36 soldiers, part of the Army's 18th Airborne Corps, entered their third day of waiting for a plane to take them to Haiti to help with earthquake relief efforts.

Of the 3,600 soldiers from Fort Bragg expected to be deployed, only 270 have made it to Haiti so far.

Lieutenant Colonel Pat Hynes of the 82nd Airborne said that one of the problems in getting troops there faster is that there are not enough forklifts to unload supplies and not enough fuel.

"When you have limited fuel capacity and then you're out of gas you can't take off," he said. "It becomes like a parking garage so that as new aircraft want to come in . . . they can't find a spot."

Of the 18th Airborne's crew, about 50 did make it to Haiti Friday to find "very austere" conditions, according to Sergeant Major Sharon Opeka, a spokeswoman for the unit. The group slept in an open field with only the supplies they had on their backs, water and Meals Ready to Eat.

Back at Bragg, the 36 soldiers of the 18th Airborne couldn't get off the ground.

"This hurry up and wait stuff is what it's all about," said Master Sergeant Stacy Stanley, who's been in the Army 22 years. "I'm used to it. I don't get upset about it. I know it happens."

The soldiers include medics, logistical planners, generator mechanics, military police and intelligence specialists. They got the call Wednesday to be ready to deploy and reported to the base. They got their weapons, shots for measles, mumps, rubella and typhoid, plus malaria pills.

And then started the wait.

Saturday morning the group hung out in a conference room turned into a prep room with weapons leaning against the walls. Some soldiers caught a catnap. Two others cleaned their M-4s. Four young soldiers played an X-box game, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare."

As Saturday morning turned into lunch at the chow hall, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Greg Meyer and Master Sergeant Rindi Foster planned an afternoon treat for the waiting troops -- showers.


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