By Brigida SanchezOctober 25, 2017
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico-- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brought in its highly specialized team, the 249th Engineer Battalion, otherwise known as "Prime Power", to assist with the mission of assessing and installation of generators at critical facilities like El Centro Medico.
According to Puerto Rico's Secretary of Health, Dr. Rafael Rodriguez-Mercado, "El Centro Medico" is the most important medical center in the region as it has the only trauma center in the Caribbean basin.
"Imagine to be out of power in a very important place like this could compromise the health of many people that come here seeking help and for treatment," Rodriguez-Mercado said. "It's a challenge because we have the Trauma Center, the University Hospital, the Pediatric Hospital, Cardiovascular Center, we have an Oncology Hospital, The City Hospital, the Psychiatric Hospital, and also the Workman's Compensation Hospital they make up the Puerto Rico Medical center."
The Prime Power team sends out its Soldiers in two-man teams that receive tasking's from FEMA and complete assessments of the facilities within those tasking's. Installing large generators accompanied by a transformer will take a team of five to seven Soldiers along with contractors.
This team of highly specialized Soldiers, they have been deployed all over the world, and have learned to sustain power to large facilities and whole base camps/FOB's i.e. Leatherneck, Bagram Airfield during times of war. Sgt. Brett Knight of the 249th Engineer Battalion's pre-illstallation and inspection team, said there are lessons to be learned from every situation.
"This is not typical and you get exposed to a lot of types of electrical systems and circuits, voltages and you get exposure to different configurations, delta, open delta Y... you get a lot of experience doing this job," Knight said.
The Puerto Rican power grid was devastated by Hurricane Maria, but the hurricane has not destroyed the tenacity of the Prime Power team nor that of the people.
"There is something to be said about the resolve of the Puerto Rican People. We are working directly with hospital directors and their engineering staff that are going days without sleep to keep their facilities in operation. They have been amazing!" Master Sgt. Taran I. Dailey of the 249 Engineer Battalion, said.
Knight reminds us that, "the most rewarding part of the mission is looking at those generators and thinking; oh that hospital has power now, you know that community has water. That is the most rewarding part."
Prime Power has completed 534 assessments and installed 190 generators. The installation process can take over 15 hours and in many cases teams are often rerouted due to emergency generator assessments.
The Corps has partnered with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Department of Energy and FEMA in order to establish unity of effort in the repair of the power grid, and restoring power to the island of Puerto Rico. As part of this effort the 249th Engineer Battalion assists in filling gaps where power will not be restored for a long length of time. Powering lifesaving, life sustaining, and critical infrastructure.