PRNG turns from earthquake to COVID-19 response
By Puerto Rico National Guard, Puerto Rico National Guard
/ Published March 17, 2020
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico -- The Puerto Rico National Guard is transitioning from supporting victims of a damaging Jan. 7 earthquake to helping respond to the threat posed by the spreading coronavirus.
Following the quake, the PRNG set up five base camps, stationing military personnel in each of them and offering medical services to more than 5,590 people. Guard members served more than 100,000 meals, distributed 203,900 gallons of water and helped support the inspection of 30,232 structures in 26 municipalities.
Only the Peñuelas camp remains open, until the 19 displaced people there are relocated, said Maj. Gen. José J. Reyes, adjutant general of Puerto Rico.
"The Puerto Rico National Guard has fulfilled this mission with the great satisfaction that we have done so with the commitment, pride and vocation that characterizes us, supported at all times by the Department of Housing, AMSCA, Department of the Family and FEMA," Reyes said. "All Puerto Rico knows that its National Guard is always present in situations like this."
The Ponce, Yauco, Guánica and Guayanilla base camps have closed.
"We remain committed to helping our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters," said Brig. Gen. Miguel Méndez, officer in charge of the task force - Puerto Rico. "We have witnessed how these families found a way to continue with their day-to-day despite the circumstances. We have seen sad faces, but also faces with a desire to excel."
Méndez praised the "inexhaustible dedication" of the Guard's Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen and the support from active forces of the United States Army, particularly members of the Northern Command, the National Guard Bureau and the National Guards of Ohio and New Mexico.
"The teamwork demonstrated in these months has been vital in fulfilling our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico," he said.
Members of the PRNG, activated by the governor of Puerto Rico, will now help state and federal agencies mitigate and control the COVID-19 virus by conducting health screening of passengers arriving at the international airport near San Juan.
"Our staff is being evaluated and trained for this new contingency and is being deployed at Luis Muñoz Marín Airport to carry out the assigned functions," Mendez said.
COVID-19 is the latest in 2½ years of challenges in Puerto Rico, beginning with a devastating hurricane.
"The experience lived during Hurricane Maria showed that Puerto Ricans unite in the face of adversity and have done so during this earthquake experience, and we have seen this in the base camps," Reyes said. "Puerto Rico has shown itself to be resilient in the face of adversity and that is why we continue to move forward.
"Now, a new challenge is presented to us with the COVID-19," he said. "I am sure that, with our combative spirit, the help of the Supreme Being and the Puerto Rico National Guard, we will once again succeed as a people."