Over 120 N.C. Guard soldiers assigned to the 105th Engineer Battalion “Task Force Rhino”, headquartered in Raeford, and a Joint NC Air and Army National Guard communications team have been in Puerto Rico for over two-weeks supporting recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Another 45 NC Guardsmen with the 105th are on their way this week to augment Task Force Rhino.
Puerto Rico requested assistance from NC Guard through an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request with NC Emergency Management to aid in recovery.
“We bring a lot to the fight,” said Lt. Col. Cale Moody, commander of the 105th Engineer Battalion. “We train for domestic operations as well as war-time [missions].”
Due to widespread storm damage from wind and rain, much of the island’s infrastructure has been damaged, to include homes, businesses, government buildings, and road and communications networks.
“What is different about Hurricane Maria is that it affected 100 percent of the Puerto Rico territory,” said Lt. Col. Juan Alvarez with the Puerto Rican National Guard.
Task Force Rhino, working mostly in the town of Salinas, is clearing debris from roads and making hasty road repairs to allow aid to reach areas cut off from the storm as well as distributing food and water to local civilians.
A NCNG Joint Incident Site Communication Capability team (JISCC) comprised of four Army Guard and four Air Guard personnel are in Puerto Rico to augment civilian first responders, and bridge the communications gap between military and civilian agencies.
Each JISCC team is equipped to establish remote internet, telephone and radio capabilities at locations with a damaged or nonexistent communications infrastructure.
“This is going to be a long recovery effort, but we are here,” stated an officer with the 105th.