Power shortages paint dim picture for troops in Iraq
August 28, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — Follow-on units that rotate into Iraq in 2004 may have enough power to keep air conditioning on 24 hours a day through the sweltering summer, but the troops who are there now will be lucky to keep their current half-on, half-off power schedule through the rest of their yearlong deployment, according to U.S. officials.
“It ain’t going to get any better while we’re here,” 1st Armored Division commander Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, the 1-36th Infantry, earlier in August.
Iraq’s largest city, Baghdad, where the 35,000 deployed soldiers from the 1st AD are based, is getting about half of the 2,600 daily megawatts it requires to operate full-time, Dempsey said.
“That’s about as good as it’s going to get for us,” said Dempsey, whose division is scheduled to return to Wiesbaden, Germany, in March or April.
The general’s prediction was confirmed Wednesday in The Washington Post by U.S. occupation coordinator L. Paul Bremer, who said it would be next summer before the Coalition Provisional Authority is able to fully meet Iraq’s daily electricity demand.
The power shortage affects not only Iraqis, but also many U.S. soldiers, who are often billeted in buildings that hook into local power grids.
Generators provide back-up power when the power fails. But the biggest military generators are reserved to provide emergency power for essential, can’t-fail services, like hospitals and emergency lights.
Individual military units often purchase smaller generators for their sleeping and living quarters, but the extreme heat and dust cause frequent breakdowns.
Power has been one of the biggest headaches since the end of the war, when coalition engineers were astonished not only by the extensive looting of Iraq’s power plants, but by the 1960’s-era technology and jury-rigged nature of the facilities.
It will cost about $13 billion over five years to get the power system up to modern standards, Bremer told the Post.