Plane shortage keeps Fort Bragg soldiers from Haiti

FORT BRAGG — As conditions deteriorate in Haiti, hundreds of troops from the 82nd Airborne Division ready to provide disaster aid to the island nation are temporarily stuck at Fort Bragg because the military's planes are tied up on other missions.

"They're ready to deploy," Maj. Brian Fickel, spokesman for the 82nd, said of about 800 members of the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "Unfortunately, we have a finite amount of resources — that's aircraft involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and everything else," including thousands of troops from other U.S. bases trying to get to Haiti to help. "Right now, we are waiting for aircraft to be assigned to our mission."

Fickel recalled a similar problem when the 82nd was sent to Louisiana to help out after Hurricane Katrina.

"When something like this happens, we need all the resources available, instantly, at one place at one time. And that's simply not reality," he said. "Across the Department of Defense, there's just so many resources, and they have to be prioritized across all our missions."

After Katrina, Fickel said, rather than wait for aircraft, the 82nd chose instead to drive themselves to Louisiana, in a convoy of more than 1,000 military vehicles. "It was faster than waiting for planes," he said.

But they can't drive to Haiti, and so the troops remain on standby, ready to report as soon as planes are sent to Pope Air Force Base to pick them up. The soldiers are packed and have been given the necessary vaccinations.

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