Airmen provide relief in Aguadilla

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
Members assigned to the 821st Contingency Response Group alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, and the Puerto Rican National Guard, have played a pivotal role in delivering humanitarian aid and disaster relief in response to the destruction caused by the recent hurricanes in the area.

Since the 821st CRG’s arrival to Puerto Rico, the team has helped deliver more than one million pounds of relief commodities to the surrounding communities and offloaded another two million pounds of cargo.

“When we first arrived to the airfield, it was still devastated,” said Lt. Col. Blaine Baker contingency response element commander here. “The airport authorities had just got the runway operational and the surrounding area was getting started with recovery operations. We wanted to come in and set up as quickly as possible so we could start receiving cargo and getting supplies to the people that needed it.”

As the first members to arrive to Aguadilla, some of the supplies brought through the airfield included the critical equipment used to help prevent the Guajataca Dam from failure. 

“With all of the rain creating stress on the dam the engineers have accessed that it was a danger for more than 70,000 people living downstream,” Baker said. “We’ve had several missions come in where our airmen offloaded high capacity pumps that are designed to relieve some of the pressure and pipes to divert the flow of water. We are doing everything we can to help support the community.”

Along with the support to local infrastructure, the 70-member CRE also created a bed down plan for more than 400 personnel to include approximately 100 airmen assigned to the 633rd Medical Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

The medical team set up and operated a 33-bed expeditionary medical support field hospital, which includes four intensive care beds and four emergency room beds in support of relief efforts.

Their mission includes assisting the Puerto Rico Department of Health by temporarily establishing hospitals and clinics to alleviate overburdened hospital emergency departments in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Since the local hospital has been closed, local routine and emergency care has been maintained through the EMEDS here. The EMEDS team has the capability to support routine medical care, surgical and inpatient services, primary and dental care, and force health protection.

“Our goal here is to support the civilian population, so if there are facilities at their max, that’s where we hope to step in help out the best way we can,” said Col. Jeff Lewis, EMEDS commander here. “We do have some limitations, but we can support all emergency surgical and medical care.”