21 June 2008

Earth Quake 89' Part IV

From the Citizen Soldier side: OK, let me get done with the earthquake story. Looking back on it, I have to admit it seemed pretty exciting at the time...but nothing compared to Iraq. I think the big reason our Earth Quake mission went so well is we had some good leaders with us. The commander would put people in charge that he knew would get the job done regardless of rank. Sometimes this upset more senior people--- but in some cases the more senior people were not the best leaders we had.
After we settled into our rooms, the next day we went out and began clearing a road that had been almost totally blocked by a landslide from the quake. We had 15 dump trucks and 2 scoop loaders on the job. I started out operating a dump truck. By about noon, the commander was pulling the senior sergeant of the road clearing job and putting him somewhere else. So who got put in charge of the road clearing mission? Me. I was just a "Spec 4" (E-4) at the time. But the commander figured that I could better organize the job. I did. I came up with a system for the dump trucks to stage down the hill and come up when they saw another truck come down. There was not enough room on the road for more than a few trucks at a time and when more came up they got stuck. This wasted time and was a hazard.

While we were working on clearing the road it was raining. So the broken hill was now getting wet. We had two things to worry about- 1. After shocks bringing down more of the hill on top of us 2. Mud slides bringing down the hill on top of us. (But looking back I think "nobody was shooting at us.")
The entire time we were clearing the road, we would have after shocks every few hours. Big ones that almost brought down more of the hill. After awhile most of us got use to them...some didn't and didn't want to work there.
Each dump truck was designed to hold 5 tons. I'm sure we were putting a lot more into them, but they didn't seem to mind. We had no accidents and did this for a few days. On about the fourth day some expert from the State came out. He looked at the hill and the road and said it was too unsafe for us to be there.

Another funny thing I saw was that the State and that county didn't really understand what different National Guard units could do. It seems the first Guard unit to arrive was kind of useless. When we showed up with construction equipment and soldiers who not only knew how to use it, but loved using it--- they were very happy. They asked if we could build things with wood. Yep. We could build anything. (Never before in the history of Army Kind have so few done so much with so little for so many.)

A few days later we went to the fair grounds. There we saw dozens of families living in camping tents. It was like a giant camp ground. As soon as we drove up, kids ran up to us and asked if we had any food. We told them we only had MREs. They were happy to get those.
The county asked us to build 10 wooden floors so they could put big tents on them. (about 12 feet be 40 feet) The county provided the wood and nails. We provided the muscle. The county estimated it would take us 5 days to make the wooden floors.

But 4 PM we had 7 done. The next day we built the other 3 before noon. And these were solid floors... all level. (we had a few guys who were carpenters in their civilian life)

The funniest part was...when we got sent off for this mission...nobody from our headquarters went along. As soon as they heard that our local news paper was going to send a reporter down...they sent some officers from HQ down. Those officers were in all the photos that were taken---however they never once lifted a hammer or drove a dump truck to help...they didn't do jack, but got in the news. Great leaders.

I left after a few weeks of this, but others stayed on for about a month or so. It felt good to help so many people.


Miss Em said...

You already knew those that can't do the job -- stand and pose while looking important. And this proved it. The people who were there knew who did the work and appreciated all that you did very much.

Sounds like San Fran' should be liking the military with a greatful attitude but now the city council looks down their noses at them and tells them to go away. Wonder how fast they would be yelling for help when 'Sh&t happens'. Just a anger provoked thought after they told the 'Blue Angels' and the USMC Silent Drill Team to go away using 'dumb-ass' reasons that didn't hold water for protesters or money-making movie crews.

I guess since they can no longer see the damage they don't have to remember how much you [the military] was needed with all your special equiptment and man-power with training.

Thank-you for your service to this Great Country both in and out of Military uniform. God Bless those who 'Stand on the Walls'.

Dan said...

We have a saying in Police Work and I use it in the National Guard also:
"If you don't like cops (or the Military) the next time you need help, call a Hippie!"

When they had the last terrorist scare, the Mayor of SF- Gavin Screwsome, said: "I don't want a bunch of gun toting National Guardsmen walking around my airport."

He can kiss my ass the next time they have an earthquake in SF and need our help.... he can go call some hippies.