SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The Georgia Air National Guard's 202d Engineering Installation Squadron deployed here Sunday to spearhead hurricane recovery efforts for 156th Airlift Wing base communications infrastructure.
This is the first of several trips to Muñiz Air National Guard Base to restore, protect and sustain vital communications equipment located inside a facility that received significant damage when Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the island last year.
"Three months into my command, our wing was devastated by two back-to-back Category-4 hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and we're still in that process continuing to work with higher level command to get us through the recovery phases and rebuild the wing," said Col. Raymond Figueroa, wing commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. "It's a total team effort and we really appreciate having the support from our Guard brothers and to have the expertise, the right people in the right places to support us."
This is a larger than average project for the 202d EIS. Traditionally, Air National Guard engineering and installation units are predominantly drill-status Guard members. When they lead projects, it is normally two to six-week projects with people in house. This project involves all the communications that touch every building in the wing and three geographically separated units and will involve coordination with multiple agencies.
Because of the magnitude of the project, it is an opportunity for the Airmen who normally work for the Air National Guard one weekend a month and two weeks a year, to learn from this scale of work in addition to having a significant positive impact on Muñiz ANG Base and the surrounding community.
The primary initial survey will take place over two weeks, then a project engineering package detailing all of the materials, personnel, equipment and cost estimates will be developed to lay out the plan for the project going forward.
"We've come to validate everything that currently exists in the data center, determine what communication equipment has to be moved, and plan for communication down the road including networking, voice services, and other secondary services that support the base," said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Buchanan, 202d EIS cyber systems superintendent and cable systems integrator base level. "The critical piece is that commercial services that come in on this base also land in this building that was damaged, which adds another moving piece integral to completing this project."
With hurricane season fast approaching, eight technicians from the 202d EIS, located at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, along with two technicians from the 241st EIS, located at Volunteer Air National Guard Station, Tennessee, pulled together their team, coordinated with multiple base agencies, and were onsite within three weeks to begin work on the initial planning stage of the long-term project.
The total project will be a collaborative effort between ANG EIS units, military civil engineer teams, 156th Communications Flight, Defense Information Systems Agency and commercial service providers, meant to provide a cost-effective solution to bolster and protect the communication infrastructure for the 156th AW.
"I've been looking forward to coming back to Puerto Rico to help out since the hurricanes hit this area," said Staff Sgt. Wilson Gardner, 202d EIS airfield systems technician. "I was here working on a project before last year's hurricanes hit and enjoyed it, so I wanted to come back and help the community get back in order."
The 202d EIS, a unit of the 116th Air Control Wing, provides installation, repair and serviceability of sophisticated command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and air reconnaissance to Air Force installations worldwide. The unit also provides disaster relief to assist state authorities during emergencies by providing disaster recovery, restoration and repair of Georgia Department of Defense, federal and civil communications infrastructure. The 202d EIS supports more than seven Air National Guard wings and 22 geographically separated units throughout the southeastern U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.