Puerto Rico’s Disaster Relief Program: A National Effort
By by SrA Thomas Arndt, 145th Airlift Wing
/ Published September 16, 2020
09/12/2020 – CHARLOTTE, N.C. – --
Puerto Rico, a frequent hot spot for hurricanes out of the South Atlantic Ocean, has teamed with National Guardsmen across the U.S. to bolster its disaster relief response. Tech. Sgt. Paul Mintz from the North Carolina Air National Guard Civil Engineering Squadron was part of a team of specialized Airmen and Soldiers sent to Muniz, Puerto Rico to help train the 156th Civil Engineering Squadron from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard on the use of Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems.
Starting in late August—just after the major hurricanes Laura and Isaias dissipated—the Puerto Rico Air National Guard initialized a major training exercise that included two Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems. The systems—which allow their owners to erect tent cities to house first responders when responding to emergencies—were reallocated to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing and the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Wing.
“The Puerto Rico Air National Guard practiced loading and unloading the Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems on and off of pallets that would be transferred to cargo aircraft,” stated Mintz.
Mintz is a water purification system specialist who took the Puerto Rico Air National Guard through several site surveying exercises and techniques to ensure water quality as he noted, “Water is one of the most important resources in a natural disaster and could mean the difference between life or death.” Several of the other units provided additional expertise on areas such as power generation, operations, and assembly.
In total, over 75 personnel were involved in the exercise from North Carolina, New Mexico, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, North Dakota, and Puerto Rico National Guard units as well as the 755th and 770th Army National Guard units. Mintz stated, “I really enjoyed the camaraderie and it was great to see so many people from different branches and bases come together to complete the exercise.”
After 30 shipment containers of equipment, including Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems, were used for training, and two weeks of hard work the exercise was finally complete.
Mintz noted the Puerto Rico Air National Guard was very welcoming and excited to receive the training and equipment, ”It was gratifying that we were able to provide adequate training and that the Puerto Rico Air National Guard will be much better prepared when disaster hits.”