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NEWS | Dec. 5, 2017

N.M. National Guard bolstering communications in Puerto Rico

By Spc. Samuel Keenan 65th Press Camp Headquarters

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard set up a VSAT, a very small aperture terminal satellite, in Vieques, Puerto Rico, to give other Guard members stationed there a better communication link between with Joint Task Force Puerto Rico headquarters in San Juan.

Vieques is an island nearly 20 miles off the coast of mainland Puerto Rico that was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Puerto Rico National Guardsmen are on the island to provide security at pieces of critical infrastructure including the school, hospital and fresh-water pumping station.

Prior to the satellite link, the Guard members were limited to cell phone and radio communications.

"Our mission is to establish a VSAT link, said 2nd Lt. Joseph Andahl, platoon leader, 3631st Signal Company, New Mexico National Guard. "This will allow them to get email, get data, access the internal net and allow for voice over internet protocol capabilities so that they can operate."

During disaster recovery operations, effective communication is necessary to coordinate military and civilian assets.

The civilian network that the Soldiers on Vieques were relying on constantly crashed and hadglitches, said Staff Sgt. Ariel Cruz, a noncommissioned officer with the 125th Military Police Battalion, Puerto Rico National Guard.

"The satellite is going to help us keep and maintain better communication," said Cruz.

The VSAT satellite and security operations on Vieques are part of the Army’s continuous efforts to assist Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island territory.