Military Still Short on Soldiers in Haiti

People gestures as a U.S. helicopter makes a water drop near a country club used as a forward operating base for the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010. Relief groups and officials are focused on moving aid flowing into Haiti to survivors of the powerful earthquake that hit the country on Tuesday.
Food, water and medicine is finally beginning to get to the millions who need help in Haiti, but it's still flowing more slowly than anyone would like. CBS News correspondent David Martin has more on the continuing bottleneck in Port-au-Prince.

An Air Force cargo plane can in one swoop drop 14,000 meals and 4,000 gallons of water to people on the ground.

So why not do more drops? Why is the next drop not scheduled until tomorrow morning?

"It takes forces on the ground to secure the areas where those drops must go in and to organize the people to avoid a chaotic distribution when those supplies come in," said Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, deputy commander of U.S. response team in Haiti.

Complete Coverage: Devastation in Haiti
Haiti Quake: How You can Help

"Troops on the ground" is the answer to almost every question about why it's taken this long to distribute supplies. When the troops arrive, people get help and supplies start moving.

A contingent of 3,5000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Brigade was supposed to be there this weekend - but many of them are still loading up back in North Carolina -- loading up not just themselves but also the equipment needed to distribute supplies when they arrive

"It does us no good to have massive amounts of supplies in Haiti if we don't get them out to the people - and that's our focus," said Col. Sean Mateer of the 18th Airborne Corps.

Eight hundred marines along and 80 Humvees started landing this morning, but it will take 24 to 48 hours to get them all ashore.

Navy doctors and Coast Guardsmen went in to provide medical care to a Haitian infant but there is no sign of the state of the art field hospitals which have saved so many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Israel and four other countries have set up such hospitals, but U.S. officials say the Haitian health ministry told them it doesn't want any more.

Tomorrow, the hospital ship Comfort - with eight operating rooms ready to go - will arrive to take some of the burden off overwhelmed Haitian hospitals.

One medical group, Doctors without Borders, has complained bitterly that patients have died because planes carrying life saving medicines have been prevented from landing. U.S. officials insist the Haitian government decides which planes can land.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.