By Russell Petcoff, contributing writerSeptember 27, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- 'When we were needed, we were there' is the motto that led the U.S. Army Materiel Command in the 1990s. It began with support to Operation Just Cause in early 1990, and continued with Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm and extensive humanitarian efforts in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.
Hurricane Andrew struck Aug. 24, 1992, with 165-mph winds. It caused $26.5 billion damage to Dade County and Homestead.
Thousands of south Floridians suddenly faced life with no food, water or shelter after Hurricane Andrew made landfall. It left approximately 250,000--one in 10--Floridians homeless.
The federal government needed a way to distribute donated supplies to the victims. It turned to Army Materiel Command. General Jimmy D. Ross, AMC commander during the crisis, wrote a 1995 report about the command's role in the crisis:
"AMC operations in support of relief for the victims of Hurricane Andrew in Dade County, Florida was a new mission for AMC but one that was in line with one of AMC's three core competencies--logistics power projection. Although power projection was normally considered as something happening outside of the Unites States, the Hurricane Andrew relief operation resulted in a major logistics power projection effort within the United States, an effort in which AMC and its Logistics Support Group played a major role."
The LSG relied upon experiences it developed during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Maj. Gen. Thomas B. Arwood, AMC deputy chief of staff for logistics, served as initial LSG commander. The Ross report included his description what Arwood first saw upon arriving Aug. 30.
"[I]f you're familiar with the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, I saw a community that was absolutely in a survival level, at the bottom of the pyramid, as you and I know it. I mean they didn't have anything, they had lost everything and so our collective function--the Red Cross was in here, when we arrived with everybody else--were trying to feed them, give them a place to stay, get them out of the weather."
A few statistics of LSG's accomplishments:Fully operational within 150 hours of arriving in Miami; reduced the donated goods from almost 7,300 short tons to almost 420 tons (99 percent reduction) in 17 days; supplied the equivalent of a heavy division for more than 120 days (minus petroleum products and ammunition); donated 86,000 sheets of plywood.
The LSG focused its priorities on getting supplies to victims. The Ross report illustrated the distribution philosophy of Brig. Gen. James W. Monroe, LSG's second commander:
"Get it out on the streets. Put it on trucks. Why? Because we need to get it to the folks who need it. We need to keep our depots low. … The objective is not to have full depots. The objective is to have empty depots. This is donated supplies. We don't go ask for what we get. So we've got to keep moving to the extent that we can physically do it. Get all of the donated stuff down to the hands of residents."
The LSG mission ended Oct. 16. Its accomplishments earned praise from the Army chief of staff.
"I commend General Ross and the Army Materiel Command both for a job well done during the relief operation," stated Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan in the report.
Editor's Note: This is part eight of AMC's 50th anniversary series, which will include insight from each decade and comments from people who worked with AMC throughout the years.