(Note: The general appears via teleconference from Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Mr. Whitman: General Inge, this is Bryan Whitman at the Pentagon. Can you hear me?
GEN. INGE: I can hear you Bryan. How do you hear me?
MR. WHITMAN: Just fine back here, general and thank you for joining us this morning. Good morning to the Pentagon press corps here. Welcome to a briefing that we have today with Lt. Gen. John (sic, Joseph) R. Inge. General Inge is the deputy commander of the United States Northern Command. He is speaking to you today from the headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
As you know, there’s been some announcements made this morning, and what we would like to do is have General Inge tell you a little bit about what Northern Command’s efforts have been so far to date, and talk to you a little bit about some of the new announcements that were made today.
We do have a very limited amount of time. Unfortunately, we lose our transmission shortly, so I am going to let him get started and give you an overview and we’ll have time for just a few questions I’m afraid. General Inge, over to you.
GEN. INGE: Thank you and good morning. I’m Lt. Gen. Joe Inge, I’m the deputy commander for Northern Command, and it’s my pleasure to have the opportunity to talk to you about the enormous effort underway to save lives, restore order, and begin what will be the greatest disaster recovery effort in our nation’s history.
One of our first and foremost concerns continues to be the immediate rescue effort. Even though we have reached thousands of Americans stranded on rooftops or trapped on islands or on solid footing, we continue to scour the countryside and communities for those who might yet remain.
That effort will continue until we are confident that every person in dire straits has been located, and at the same time we are flowing large amounts of resources into the area – food, water and medical supplies, along with people, to determine priorities and direct their delivery are already there. It’s a heroic effort by any standard of measure. It will continue as long as is necessary.
As you know, U.S. Northern Command leads the DoD relief effort. We have folks working around the clock, great young Americans working around the clock to support the relief effort. To date, there are almost 5,000 active duty service members on the ground and approximately 15,000 National Guardsmen aiding those affected by the disaster. And even as we speak here more are moving to the area.
These are great Americans. They are just part of a total effort working side by side with courageous people, from the local responders to state and our federal partners that are also providing response.
Together we have already delivered millions of meals. In fact, we’ve delivered over 20 million MRE meals or they are in the pipeline flowing there. Together they have already delivered tons of water. They are providing huge amounts of medical and logistics efforts. The effort will continue until it is no longer needed.
As you heard the president say early today, we will establish a safe and secure environment for those Americans affected by the disaster.
To ensure this environment we place at the ready some of our most capable nation’s military – the 82nd Airborne Division, portions of the 1st Cavalry Division, and the 1st and 2nd Marine forces that will soon be on the way. These forces will make a difference.
And with that, I stand ready to answer your questions.
MR. WHITMAN: Well we’ll get right into it. Will?
Q: General, this is Will Dunham with Reuters. Could you please give us a breakdown of how many troops are coming from the 82nd, the 1st Cav, the 1st Marine and the 2nd Marine? And can you tell us precisely what their role is going to be and where they are going?
GEN. INGE: We estimate approximately 2,500 people from the 82nd; approximately 2,700 from the 1st Cavalry Division; and about 2,000 from the two Marine units. The first wave of these troops will flow into the New Orleans area. They will be received. Their purpose is to contribute to the effort to bring about a more stable environment, and to assist in the disaster relief that is so evident from your reporting.
Q: Just to follow up, sir, more specifically on their role – are they going to be asked to do anything that resembles law enforcement activities?
GEN. INGE: No. As you know, these are Title 10 forces. They will not take on a law enforcement role, nor have they been directed in any way to do so. They will provide security. They will relieve – be available to relieve National Guard soldiers who are in state status should there be a requirement for National Guard guys to do law enforcement.
Q: (inaudible) crowd control and site protection and not do law enforcement?
GEN. INGE: I am sorry – I couldn’t hear you.
Q: (inaudible) do crowd control and site protection, yet still not be doing law enforcement?
GEN. INGE: That’s correct, and probably not too much crowd control because you run the edge of law enforcement there. They will secure their own sites, but I anticipate that their main effort will be providing relief to suffering so that any type of thing that smacks of law enforcement can be done by the National Guard.
MR WHITMAN: Go ahead, Bob.
Q: General, this is Bob Burns from Associated Press. Could you give us some figures on the number of helicopters and other aviation assets will be sent, and will the 82nd be the first ones to come in tomorrow or today?
GEN. INGE: Absolutely not. Already on the ground, I think my number is correct this morning, there are some 170 helicopters that you’ve seen. They’ve been flying missions. They continue to fly. I got a report just earlier that off the shores of Mississippi they’ve already been 30 sorties this morning.
Q: How many helicopters are you sending with these approximately 7,000 troops that you outlined?
GEN. INGE: I am not sure what helicopters are available with the Marines, but the 82nd unit and the 1st Cav unit don’t have helicopters organic to them. We are continuing to flow helicopters into the AOR, particularly now National Guard helicopters continue to move in.
MR. WHITMAN: These are ground assets.
MR. WHITMAN: Right.
Q: General, it’s Jamie McIntyre from CNN. I know that you’re not responsible for the force numbers in Iraq, but General Vines said the other day there would only be a modest increase in forces in Iraq during the Iraqi elections.
Some people now believe that that might be because those troops are needed at home – troops that would have gone to Iraq to boost levels for the elections are needed at home for disaster relief. Can you just speak at all to whether or not the troops that are – the active duty troops that are being sent to the disaster zone were troops that would otherwise might have been available for Iraq?
GEN. INGE: Absolutely not, Jamie. Troops that are going into disaster zone will support that effort. As needs arise in the future we will reposition to make sure that we meet all our needs, but these two forces in no way degrade our effort in Iraq.
MR. WHITMAN: Jim
GEN. INGE: No. I think you will find that when you get into the detail, the Guard guys operate with a different set of rules of engagement than these guys flowing in will because they have law enforcement authority.
These soldiers will have what we call the standard rules for use of force, which, in very general terms, will give them the right of self protection and will give them the right and authority to act so should they witness an event that causes suffering – correction -- causes loss of human life. So pretty strict rules, and they will be understood before the soldiers get off the planes.
MR. WHITMAN: Go ahead.
Q: OK, I’m sorry. General, just wanted to clarify. Did you say 2,000 Marines each from each of the Marine expeditionary units, or 2,000 total from the two?
GEN. INGE: Total. A thousand from each coast.
Q: These Marines are going to be – all these active duty troops are going to be sent to a very volatile situation. When they deal with looting and rioting how do they distinguish between security and law enforcement?
GEN. INGE: First of all, if you’re going into an area where you believe there’s looting and rioting, which by the way the reports I get this morning is that in general, New Orleans is a pretty calm place. Likewise, I have no known reports of looting or rioting in Mississippi, but I would certainly know that there are (short break in audio) of break ins and such. We would tend to put National Guard guys into those areas and keep the regular guys where they can provide humanitarian assistance.
MR. WHITMAN: Will, go ahead.
Q: Yes, General, Will Dunham with Reuters again. Going back to the arrival schedule for the units that comprise this 7,000. Can you tell me when they are all going to be arriving?
GEN. INGE: I think you can expect to see the first plane land in New Orleans before sundown today. And I would estimate that the main part of the force will close within the next 72 hours.
Q: Can you go unit by unit to say who’s getting in first, who’s getting in second, third and fourth?
GEN. INGE: First – I’m not sure of the timing right now as I speak of the two Marine units, but I know that the 82nd is -- should be on the ground there mid afternoon – the first planes – and they will close as fast as we turn airplanes to bring the remainder. The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, I think you can see it begin to close within the next 48 hours.
MR. WHITMAN: Let’s go over here to Jim. We’ve got -- we’re just about out of time. Go ahead Jim.
Q: General, two things. One, are all these forces going into New Orleans? And the second thing, will this deployment be accomplished without any kind of a waiver to Posse Comitatus?
GEN. INGE: Absolutely. I am not aware of any discussion of waiver of Posse Comitatus that’s taken place. And what was your other question?
Q: Whether all these forces will go into New Orleans?
GEN. INGE: We know that the first lifts will go into New Orleans. We have the commander on the ground now prioritizing to determine whether he wants them all to go there or to send them to other places.
Q: General, would it be fair to say that a majority of them are expected – a majority if not all of them are expected to go to New Orleans?
GEN. INGE: I haven’t talked to General Honore yet so I would say I’m not certain.
MR. WHITMAN: General, we’re going to let you go. We know that you’re very busy, and we’re about to lose our satellite time at this point. But we want to thank you for spending a few minutes with us. We know that you are going to be joining us back here in this briefing room soon, and as this situation develops, clearly you’ll have more information for us.
GEN. INGE: Thanks very much. It’s been my pleasure.