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Some 13,700 U.S. Department of Defense Personnel Arrive In Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico To Aid In Relief Efforts

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WASHINGTON — About 13,700 Defense Department personnel are now in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria ravaged the region three weeks ago, Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said today.

DoD, supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is focused on temporary power restoration; food, water, fuel and power generator distribution; medical support; route clearance; aviation support and repair of the fragile Guajataca Dam, he said.

U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has the DoD lead in disaster response and relief efforts in both U.S. territories. Davis said the command has deployed food, water and key DoD capabilities, including elements of the 633rd Expeditionary Medical Support hospital to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

The number of aircraft deployed to the U.S. territories totals 92 rotary-wing and 19 fixed-wing airplanes, he noted. A key incident support base distribution hub for the western region of Puerto Rico also has been set up in Aguadilla, the spokesman said.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort is providing medical support operations in Aguadilla. Elements of the 14th Combat Support Hospital are arriving in Humacao, where the hospital is scheduled to open tomorrow, Davis said.

U.S. Transportation Command has aeromedical evacuation assets in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for patients who require moves to hospitals stateside.

DoD personnel have installed 81 generators on the island and provided 273 of 423 generator inspections prior to installation, he said.

Route Clearance

Service members are progressing in clearing routes from storm damage, and the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command is taking the lead for water production near Guajataca Dam, Davis said.

Defense Logistics Agency personnel are charged with delivering 2.5 million meals each day through Nov. 5, he said.

All elements of the 575th Area Support Medical Company have arrived in St. Croix, Davis said, and a mobile medical center is expected to be fully operational by tomorrow.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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