ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Soldiers and airmen with the Alaska National Guard are back home after spending nearly a month in Puerto Rico helping with humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Maria.
On October 6th, a team of 10 guard members from both the Alaska Air and Army National Guard packed up and left for the devastated U.S. territory. They returned home last week after completing their main mission of providing network and voice communications on the island.
“They were shocked that we came from such a cold climate to such a really warm climate,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Dennis.
Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, which closed in 2004, was reopened and used as their main working space. They set up what’s called a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability System, a transportable 20-foot system that can provide internet, telephone and radio capabilities.
“The airfield that we were supporting didn’t have any cell service when we first got there, so without us they wouldn’t be able to call back to Miami, who is handling all the radar activity for Puerto Rico while they were getting everything back up,” said Dennis.
To this day, a majority of the island is still without power, proving the work of the guard members to be vital.
“It’s an amazing feeling, I’m really glad we got the opportunity to go down and help out and be there in support of the population down there,” Dennis said.
Meanwhile, for the first time ever, four members with the Alaska State Defense Force deployed out of the state to replace the crews in Puerto Rico, to continue with communication efforts until the end of the month.