Navy details logistics effort for Somalia OPERATION RESTORE HOPE

December 08, 1992|By Charles W. Corddry | Charles W. Corddry,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- As Marines prepared to arrive in Somalia by helicopter and air-cushioned, water-skimming vehicle, the Navy revealed new details of the huge logistics effort now under way to support the 28,000 troops being dispatched to the ravaged African land.

From installing lights for 24-hour air base operations to building roads and clearing space for unloading cargo in uncertain port conditions, the troops face immediate tasks that will be sharply different from those in the deployment to well-fixed Saudi Arabia 1990.

Senior Navy officials said yesterday that about 1,300 Seabees (Construction Battalion personnel) had been ordered to proceed Somalia from Port Hueneme, Calif., and Gulfport, Miss., to take on the heavy construction jobs ahead.

The first 100 were being flown in and were to use light equipment aboard Marine prepositioned supply ships in the Indian Ocean.

By Christmas Eve, half the Seabees will have arrived by air along with a shipload of bulldozers, cranes, concrete mixers and other heavy equipment. All are to be there by Jan. 6 and, the Navy officials said, they may well be the last to leave, as is often the case.

The Sealift Commander, Vice Adm. Michael P. Kalleres, met yesterday with representatives of 30 shipping contractors and was expected to sign contracts today for moving some of the Seabees' heavy equipment from Rota, Spain, and Port Hueneme.

The Command simultaneously was readying two of its Fast Sealift Ships to leave Dec. 10 from Bayonne, N.J., and Wilmington, N.C.

Leaving nothing to chance if it could help it, the Navy also was sending 100 cargo handlers from a naval facility at Williamsburg, Va., to help unload the Marines' prepositioned equipment.

The military command is not willing to risk putting Marines ashore in Somalia without air cover, and has ordered the aircraft carrier Ranger and its escort ships to proceed from the Gulf area to the Somali coast. The carrier has 22 F-14s, 24 A-6 bombers and 14 other aircraft.

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