“Aid Slow To Reach Puerto Rico”, Not So Fast

Dover – Over the last few weeks some in the media have been focused on the political drama of rebuilding Puerto Rico, after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the US Territory. You might not know that the recovery was well underway with headlines like “Aid Slow To Reach Puerto Rico” or “Some Frustrated With Pace Of Aid”. Luckily for the people of Puerto Rico the men and woman at Dover Air Force Base don’t have time for all of that drama, they’re too busy getting the job done.

Hurricane Maria passed the island on September 20th, soon after crews from the 436th Airlift Wing began flying supplies to the battered island. On October 2nd Air Mobility Command said that aircraft had flown over 45 missions delivering aid to those affected, Since then many more mission have been completed and more are ongoing.

According to AMC headquarters, more than 1,100 short tons of cargo have been delivered to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The 3d AS Airmen were tasked on alert to bring vehicles, support assets and personnel from the 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado. This equipment will provide the tools that 68th CSSB soldiers need to engage recovery efforts over the next few weeks.

“Most of the island is without power and drinkable water. It is important to get supplies and equipment to the people as quickly as possible to help start rebuilding,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Wright, 3d AS loadmaster. “St. Thomas being an island complicates recovery efforts, and most of the supplies have to be flown in or arrive by boat. The sooner we can bring people, recovery assets, and other essential supplies the quicker the rebuilding can begin.”

Crews have supplied 118,000 pounds of meals ready to eat and bottled water at San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport to be distributed throughout a devastated Puerto Rico. With the help of Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group, the off load was a success.

The 436th AW alone has moved 1.2 million pounds of cargo in support of hurricane relief efforts.

A C-5M Super Galaxy from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia to provide airlift for AT&T communication equipment and technicians Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

The airlift mission provided critical infrastructure restoration in support of life-saving activities underway in Puerto Rico.

Many of the island’s three million residents have been without communication since the island took the full brunt of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.

To restore communication capabilities on the island, AT&T provided mobile communications assets in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This equipment included three vehicles: two satellite cell on light trucks (COLT) and one emergency communication vehicle (EMV). Members of AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team use these vehicles to restore Wi-Fi, LAN lines and Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) capabilities, explained Lou Fiorenza, an AT&T Network Disaster Recovery Team member.

The C-5M Super Galaxy transporting this communication cargo is capable of carrying 135 tons and is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory.

Team Dover  responded in force to support the ongoing Hurricane Maria relief operations in Puerto Rico since the storm made landfall and devastated the island two weeks ago.

“The 436th Maintenance Group is ‘all in’ to support disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico,” said Col. Tyler Knack, 436th MXG commander. “From here at home, we’ve been providing safe, reliable aircraft far above our normal tasking levels to ensure we meet all emerging requirements and will continue to do so to the very best of our ability.”

A team of seven Airmen from the 436th MXG volunteered to deploy to Puerto Rico to support aircraft maintenance operations for incoming and outgoing Air Mobility Command aircraft transiting the island while delivering humanitarian relief supplies and personnel. One of these seven, Airman 1st Class Ronald Morales-Rosado, 436th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, is a Puerto Rican native.

The team of seven maintainers departed on a bus from Dover AFB Oct. 4, 2017, to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. There they caught a flight on a C-17 Globemaster III to San Juan.

They are expected to remain on the island from anywhere between 45 days to four months, depending on several variables. While in location, their mission will be to provide maintenance support for C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 aircraft. They will work hand-in-hand with other aircraft maintenance Airmen from other AMC bases. They are also expected to be joined by additional maintenance Airmen from Dover AFB in the upcoming weeks.

“We are proud to send A1C Morales-Rosado, a native from Puerto Rico, to assist in the relief effort, directly impacting his family and friends on the island,” said Knack.

Morales-Rosado is from Guánica, a small town in southern Puerto Rico, and has been in the Air Force for just over two-and-a-half years. He is looking forward to returning home to help.

“It’s pretty amazing to go back home and help your people,” Morales-Rosado said. “All of my family is there, except for my wife and 1-year-old daughter.”

According to Morales-Rosado, all of his family made it through the storm without injury or harm.

“They’re all fine and their houses are fine,” he said. “So that’s a relief.”
But the conditions on the ground for them are not great, Morales-Rosado said.

“When I told my mom that I was coming, she actually told me not to come,” he said. “It’s pretty bad there. They have no cell phone signal, no electricity, they barely have any water, they have some food, but not a lot.”

While there, he is unsure if he’ll have the opportunity to see his family.
“I would hope to see them,” he said. “I might see them, or I might not.”
Morales-Rosado was selected for this mission to Puerto Rico when it became aware to his leadership that he was from there.

“I had my promotion ceremony last week and they were talking about this trip to Puerto Rico,” he said. “When I went up to get my new stripes, they announced where I was from and the chief heard it, and he got me on this trip.”

According to Morales-Rosado, his leadership has been nothing but helpful throughout this entire ordeal.

“They’ve helped me a bunch,” he said. “They’ve given me time to do what I need to do.”

Source: Some information in this story was provide by Dover Air force Base press release.


Image Credits: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Davis, U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Park, U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia

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