by Jonathan LaForce
Jonathan LaForce is a former Marine 0811, who deployed with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines to Helmand in 2011. He currently operates a BBQ food truck called the Aloha Snack Bar, and writes romance novels and poetry in his spare time. Cases of Dr. Pepper are always appreciated.
Water is an important item we all need. Every day. A question posed today by Alex Bradley, in the form of a meme asked this thought and question:
The Flint Water Crisis is now entering it’s second year. Why haven’t we seen the military step in and handle the matter? Where is the Army Corps of Engineers laying down new pipes to bring in water? Where are the filtration systems? We can invade a foreign power inside a matter of hours, so why can’t we take care of problems within our own borders?
Now, that is a very good question. And seeing as I’m something of a wordsmith when it comes to such matters, I’m going to answer all of the above.
Number 1: Landing an armed force on foreign soil (whether by sea or land) has its own logistical chain. Its purpose there is to smash and break things with violent efficiency and lethality. Nothing less will do. Suppose we’re talking about a Marine artillery battery moving across the Eastern Polish border to defend Ukraine against Russian invasion (not entirely impossible these days; Vlad Putin is at the “use it or lose it” stage).
Every single vehicle in the battery is already loaded in such a manner as to most rapidly and effectively go into a combat zone. Dismounting and fire-capping a towed Howitzer is an art and a science all at once. All the gear on board in the back end of the 7-ton truck towing that Howitzer is staged and arranged so that even with the normal jostling and bouncing of travel, it will be at hand where it is most needed for the speed and efficiency of the gun crew to get the gun up and firing. That’s what we train for all day every day. It is what we exist to do.
But our supplies are limited. We only have so much effective range and supplies. We’ve already prioritized our needs and what we can carry; there is quite literally no more room unless you’re willing to add more vehicles to the battery, which increases all sorts of variables. Because of this, there is a necessity for logistical chains and follow-on support. But even those can only carry so much food, water, bullets, beans and TP.
Operation Desert Shield began after Saddam unjustly invaded Kuwait In August 1990. At the same time, 13th Marine Expedition Unit was afloat at sea. Within five weeks, the MEU had swelled to become 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and was fully ready to launch an amphibious assault into Kuwait. Valiant though this effort would have been, without the support of follow-on forces, the 10,000 Marines of 4th MEB would have died when they ran out supplies and munitions. In the end, six months would pass before the U.S. Army had staged enough men and material to make driving Saddam out of Kuwait a practical event.
That’s just to conquer an area. Not patrol it day and night for security purposes; not ensure that critical civilian needs are met; just to drive out Saddam’s pack of animals. And that’s with the U.S. government acting intelligently and the U.S. military in the prime of its existence after the build-up during the Reagan administration.
Number 2: Now that we’ve examined military logistics, it’s time to examine Flint. For years, the city of Flint purchased its water supply from Detroit. A significant portion of Detroit’s city budget came from Flint’s water purchase, which makes sense. Every human being needs at least 1 gallon of water per day, just for drinking – not bathing, not washing dishes, not even cooking. Just in terms of what you personally drink. When your city population is nearly 100,000 that’s a lot. How much? Let me break it down for you. If we assume that 100,000 people, consume one gallon apiece, per day, seven days per week, that’s 700,000 gallons of water. Now multiply that by 52. That would make 36,400,000 gallons of water per year. Let’s suppose Detroit charged them a rate of 2 cents per gallon: That’s $728,000 dollars annually.
The city of Flint looked at all this money flowing out from their own civic funds and said “Huh, how can we free up money to go elsewhere?” which was a smart move on the politicians’ part. The city of Flint ran the numbers and determined that if it started construction of their own water supply to feed into the existing network, it would take them 2 years, and at the end of it, they would have a net savings of $4.2 million, at a minimum. Good work so far. So the City of Flint made the announcement that they were putting up their own water system, and would no longer be dependent on Detroit when their contract ended in 2 years. They figured they would be safe.
They were wrong.
Detroit was not happy about this. Remember, Detroit enjoys the cash cow that Flint represents. Their response to Flint was to immediately cut off the water supply. Now, go check who the mayor of Detroit is. What’s his party affiliation? How long has this party been in power in Detroit?
Flint had to switch to local water supply. Governor Rick Snyder set up a crisis management team who tried to help ease the process. They checked with local environmental regulation agencies about whether the water was safe. They asked the EPA the same question, and they were told it was. Even after things started getting funky, the EPA assured them everything was okay.
And now, here we are. Filthy water in Flint, and a fat Democrat named Michael Moore is running around telling people to stop sending water to Flint. Yes, you just read that correctly. Chew on that and consider what it means while I expound upon Point Number 3.
Number 3: In the short term, a military led-convoy could make good things happen, but it would get ugly in a hurry because we have zero tolerance or respect for stupidity and jackassery. Given the mess that FEMA has proven to be, under any administration, it will probably end up being a military led, military commanded effort, which means martial law or the next best thing to it. We call the shots, and nobody argues. Or we smack them down and out of the way.
Why? Because we have a job to do, and we will not allow anything to deter us from achieving our mission.
Imagine that Corporal LaForce has a squad of Marines and he’s in charge of distributing water to a local neighborhood. Everybody gets so many bottles or jugs per household. All they have to do is come to the collection point and collect it. We’re doing things by the numbers in an organized fashion. Lines start to form. Who here likes standing in line? I don’t even like waiting in the express line in the grocery store. Now take that line and move it outside to the 30 degree weather; people are cold, people are tired, bored, cranky, grumpy. They’re sick of listening to their kids whine about being bored tired and hungry. Now we have 1,000 thirsty, hungry, grouchy people, ready to lose their heads waiting in line.
I have my standing orders, which include that Joe Six Pack does not cause trouble. Yes, we get it Mr. Six-Pack, you’re thirsty. So is everybody else here. Stand in line and wait. Because nothing goes wrong when refugees and people in desperate situations go to get supplies, right? Because there’s no reporter from MSNBC standing around with a camera looking for somebody to get stupid so he can show the very same guys handing out water as being nothing more than government thugs oppressing the poor-downtrodden people of Flint, right? MSNBC and CNN are full of professional liars who have done exactly that in Iraq and Afghanistan. Don’t think for a second they won’t do it here.
Great, we made it out of the whole mess alive and unharmed. But wait, as we’re preparing to leave, we see a local street gang charging a toll for water to the locals. This is wrong on many, many levels. Do you think Corporal LaForce is going to tolerate some two-bit punk gang member doing that? Nope. And how is it going to look on CNN when they air live footage of Corporal LaForce using a machine gun to handle street thugs? I can already see the court martial proceedings. I can already see the rest of my career going down in flames. If I’m a reservist and a business owner, my business is finished. Because CNN and MSNBC do not care about the truth, they’ll never show the people who were robbed at gunpoint before I intervened. They won’t care one iota about the truth. And while my family suffers, those stuffed shirt reporterss will go back to voting into power the very politicians who caused this mess to begin with and promoting them to the general public. That’s the reality I and every other Marine sent to do this duty would face every day for several months while the water supply got fixed.
And if we’re shipping nearly three million gallons of water each month, by truck, to Flint, think about the cost in diesel fuel to run all of that. That’s not a powder keg of trouble waiting to ignite at all, and would you care to buy this beautiful ocean front property in Arizona which I own?
Number 4: We’re not done yet, but we’re close. The Army’s engineers are very capable, talented individuals. They absolutely could set up the facilities necessary to alleviate the short term shortages, and start laying down foundations for longer-term scenarios. But guess what? Everything requires environmental impact statements, reviews, inspections, and decisions made by bureaucrats whose very livelihoods depend on the volume of paperwork they can generate. And then there’s every single environmental regulation that must be met, enforced by the very EPA who said this water was “good to drink and use” in the first place!
That engineer Captain you called up to go fix this mess is going to spend the first four months onsite spinning his thumbs. Same with his company First Sergeant, all the way on down to the lowest, most boot private in the unit (assuming he’s not busy digging a ditch because his seniors told him to). Because until the EPA actually decides to get their oh-so-precious act together, nothing can happen. It’s that simple. We have regulated even basic construction so heavily, that establishing clean drinking water is a multi-year process.
Why do you think California never bothered to build desalinization plants up and down the coast, in an effort to alleviate drought problems? Government regulated it straight out the window. Then, to really put people in a bind, they determined that the needs of the brown river smelt fish mattered more than ensuring farmers had enough water for irrigation. So farms started drying up, a la the Dust Bowl (my wife’s family owns farm land up there, and I’ve gotten to see this first hand), which meant that the California drought was not only perpetuating itself, but man-made by the very hand of the supposed environmental custodians set to protect it! Just like the government agency that was supposed to protect the citizens of Flint, Michigan failed them entirely.
In Hawaii, the state government has fought for years with the LDS church to gain control of the wells and aquifers which that private organization owns, developed, and maintains on its own dime. Why? Because until the amount of available drinking water in Hawaii is increased sufficiently, they can’t do the land developments they’d like, because there won’t be enough water to take care of the booming population. Again, why not build desalinization plants? You’d have construction crews hiring like mad, people would be getting hired and trained on how to maintain and operate these plants, the cost of water would go down (due to the surplus of water now in the system), which means that cost of living goes down and your average Hawaiian’s dollar goes a lot further. Yay! More money for Manapua and malasadas! Praise the Lord and pass the laulau!
But it doesn’t happen that way. Environmental regulations either forbid it, or make it so difficult, that no business owner in his right mind will go near the project. You would need Bill Gates’ money and army of lawyers, just to get started!
Finally, know this: It can be resolved. Yes. It can. But you have to have a certain stomach and fortitude for the rough road ahead. It won’t go away in one night. If you send Marines or Soldiers into Flint, you must expect that friction with the local populace is going to occur. You must be willing to watch American fighting men resort to physical violence on occasion to keep the peace, or prevent barbarians from harming civilized human beings. You must be willing to scrap much of the environmental regulatory code and start over, because it is entirely too cumbersome. You must be willing to stay the course, all the way from beginning to end.
Because otherwise, it will not work.