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NEWS | Sept. 14, 2020

Puerto Rico Guard disaster relief program a national effort

By Senior Airman Thomas Arndt 145th Airlift Wing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Puerto Rico, a frequent hot spot for hurricanes out of the South Atlantic Ocean, has teamed with National Guard members across the U.S. to bolster its disaster relief response.

Tech. Sgt. Paul Mintz from the North Carolina Air National Guard Civil Engineering Squadron was part of a team of specialized Airmen and Soldiers sent to Muniz, Puerto Rico, to help train the 156th Civil Engineering Squadron from the Puerto Rican Air National Guard on the use of Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems.

The two-week training started in late August, just after hurricanes Laura and Isaias dissipated. Two Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems, basically tent cities to house first responders during emergencies, were reallocated to the Puerto Rican Air National Guard from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing and the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Wing.

“The Puerto Rican Air National Guard practiced loading and unloading the Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems on and off of pallets that would be transferred to cargo aircraft,” Mintz said.

Mintz is a water purification system specialist who took the Puerto Rican Air National Guard through several site surveying exercises and techniques to ensure water quality. “Water is one of the most important resources in a natural disaster and could mean the difference between life or death,” he said. Several of the other units provided additional expertise on areas such as power generation, operations and assembly.

More than 75 Guard members were involved in the exercise from North Carolina, New Mexico, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, North Dakota, and Puerto Rican National Guard units as well as the 755th and 770th Army National Guard units.

“I really enjoyed the camaraderie, and it was great to see so many people from different branches and bases come together to complete the exercise,” Mintz said, adding that the Puerto Rico Air National Guard "will be much better prepared when disaster hits.”