COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV)- Families across the state are happy to see some familiar faces after a troop of army national guard soldiers returned from a hurricane recovery mission in Puerto Rico. Emotions were high as families patiently waited for their loved ones to return to McEntire Joint National Guard Base.
More than 150 Army National Guard engineers from 8 different bases spent the past month in Puerto Rico helping residents return to a sense of normalcy. One of the mission commanders explained why his group had to deploy to the island. “It’s important as national guard members that we help other states, neighbors helping neighbors and taking care of each other,” said Capt. Joseph Varin.
1st Sgt. Dustin Mills says it’s all about returning the favor. “We’d want someone to help us if we were devastated by a Category 5 hurricane, we’re just happy to be down there and helping the Puerto Rican citizens,” said Mills.
The soldiers only had 96 hours to get ready and deploy to Puerto Rico but once they hit the ground they spent most of their day clearing the roads and cutting down trees earning them the nickname the termites.
One of the privates on the mission said they had trouble finding a place to stay when they first got on the island. The troop spent 32 days sleeping in tents on a baseball field. Each morning they woke up and went to work.
“We were working directly in the mountains and there were curves everywhere so we had to stop traffic to complete what we were doing get the debris off the road and the trees,” explained Private Alveshire.
141 members of the team returned Thursday while others stayed behind to wrap up the equipment.
The soldiers were actually scheduled to come home a little earlier but had difficulty finding a military plane and would have had to actually wait until the weekend for one. Arrangements were made and they were able to come home on a commercial flight.