FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico – Gov. Ricardo Rossello mobilized the Puerto Rico National Guard on March 5 in support of the Maritime Transportation Authority to bring much-needed supplies to the Island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra.
Currently, there is no serviceable maritime transportation connecting residents from the outlying islands to receive goods and services through normal channels. The Governor's Executive Order 19-2019 activates one of the most unique assets in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard inventory on state active duty.
The Puerto Rico National Guard is sending its boats to the rescue.
"We answer the call and respond to our island community needs," said the Adjutant General of Puerto Rico, Brig. Gen. Jose J. Reyes."We are the only Army National Guard unit in the country that has maritime assets for this type of emergent situation. We have activated Citizen-Soldiers who specialize in the operation and maintenance of our PRNG Landing Craft Vessels; our priority is to transport all essential supplies to the Island municipalities until the MTA fleet regains operational status."
The PRNG is also providing administrative and maintenance personnel to guarantee the serviceability of the watercraft and the continuous resupplying to the affected communities.
"We are privileged to serve the people of Puerto Rico in this capacity and to meet the needs of the populations and municipalities of Culebra and Vieques," said Reyes."The governor assigned this mission to the Guard until the maritime transportation can be restored to return normalcy to the municipalities' residents."
The PRNG Landing Craft Detachment operates two vessels from its base in Roosevelt Roads, Ceiba. Each vessel has the capacity to transport up to 50 tons in a 620-square-foot area and is able to transport all required material and personnel during the emergency.
The PRNG is executing supply transportation missions each morning to Vieques. The trip takes about an hour each way. Additionally, re-supply trips have been made to Culebra, which take about two hours each way, depending on ocean conditions.
According to the New York Times, the announcement came after cargo ferries that supply the two islands located some 20 miles east of Puerto Rico recently broke down, cutting an important lifeline to the roughly 11,000 people who live there. In addition, tens of thousands of tourists visit the islands every year, and people have been posting pictures on social media of empty shelves at supermarkets and long lines at gas stations.