Guardsmen from the 178th Wing in Springfield are in Puerto Rico to assist in relief efforts as the island tries to recover from Hurricane Maria.
Six Springfield-based members of the Ohio Air National Guard traveled with nine members of Mansfield’s 179th Airlift Wing last week, said Master Sgt. Dan Crock, of the 178th. It’s the second group of airmen recently deployed from Springfield to assist with areas damaged in recent hurricanes.
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The airmen from the 178th Wing are traveling with a Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer. Members of both units will be able to use the unit, which can be used to prepare bagged meals for as many as 1,000 people in an hour and a half. The airmen will prepare hot meals for military members who are deployed to assist with the relief efforts, Crock said.
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The unit’s mission won’t be to serve the hurricane victims directly in this case, Crock said, but to provide hot meals to units deployed to respond to the disaster. The kitchen trailer provides everything needed, including utensils and powdered drinks, to prepare full meals at breakfast and dinner to units deployed to assist the victims.
“The mobile kitchen can be stood up within 90 minutes and can feed 1,000 people at a time,” he said.
Puerto Rico is struggling to recover two weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through the country, knocking out communications and power across the island. It’s not clear how long the units will remain on the island.
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“We could see rotations come every 45 days for however long it takes for Puerto Rico to be self-sustaining again,” Crock said.
The Springfield guard unit was asked to prepare a few weeks ago in case they were needed, he said. But they weren’t told for sure until Friday evening, Sept. 29.
“By Saturday morning we had six of those volunteers on board and ready to go,” Crock said. “They left by 6:30 Monday morning to go to Mansfield to meet up with the team. In two days they went from sitting on their couch to packed, out-processed and ready to go.”
Six members of the 269th Combat Communications Squadron, also based in Springfield, were also deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands in early September to assist with stabilizing communications after damage from Hurricane Irma. Those airmen were already on the ground providing assistance when the island was hit again by Hurricane Maria.
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The airmen from the 269th specialize in providing communications services, including radio and Internet, which can be utilized by first responders and government agencies that have responded to the disaster. The unit his a history of responding to other disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans more than a decade ago.
They have also provided their equipment and expertise at large events, including last year’s Republican Convention in Cleveland and more recently, the Air Force Marathon in Dayton.
The Springfield News-Sun covers the local military and its impact on Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories on new leaders at the Springfield Air National Guard Base and the possible effects in Springfield of another round of Base Review and Closures.
By the numbers:
6 — Ohio National Guard members from Springfield in Puerto Rico
9 — Ohio National Guard members from Mansfield deployed to Puerto Rico
1,000 — Meals that can be served from the Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen trailer at a time
6 — Ohio National Guard members from Springfield already providing support in the U.S. Virgin Islands