By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeSeptember 26, 2017
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- (Sept. 26, 2017) As military and civic leaders make headway in assessing the destruction in the wake of Hurricane Maria on Fort Buchanan and the island of Puerto Rico, six members of the command assigned there continue to sift through what is left of their personal belongings and reassemble their lives at home and work.
Many of the island's more than three million residents remain without communications as emergency responders and relief services tackle the daunting task of restoring some semblance of normalcy to many parts of the tropical destination expected to be without power for weeks.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with our Mission and Installation Contracting Command members and their families in Puerto Rico as they recover from this devastating hurricane," said April Miller-Dietrich, the director of the MICC Field Directorate Office-Fort Sam Houston that oversees Fort Buchanan. "With power down across Puerto Rico, we have established reach-back contracting operations within the FDO and will do all we can to support the recovery efforts."
Fort Buchanan leaders began to limit operations at noon Sept. 19 in response to the Puerto Rican government's hurricane preparation protocols. Access to the installation was limited to essential personnel only as non-essential personnel were released to take necessary precautions at their homes and seek safety at one of several shelters near the installation that are supported by the Puerto Rican government.
As Hurricane Maria approached the island, MICC personnel were released with the exception of the director, Christine Davis, who remained on post in a shelter approved by the installation department of public works. The National Hurricane Center estimated winds in excess of 150 miles per hour as Maria made landfall as a category four hurricane. Residents were asked to shelter in place due to down power lines and trees, widespread flooding and electrical hazards while adhering to an island-wide curfew.
Following the hurricane, Fort Buchanan announced a cease of normal operations Sept. 23 until further notice so that it can continue to assess damage while working with federal and local leaders to restore operations.
"While our civilian and uniformed contracting professionals remain ready and trained to respond to any contingency to support the needs of the Army and civil authorities, it weighs heavy on our hearts when members of our own MICC family have been displaced and effected by natural disaster," said Col. Bill Boruff, the MICC commander.
It was not until the morning of Sept. 25 that communications with all of office's employees and 100 percent accountability was reported to headquarters and Army Contracting Command officials.
The office provides contracting support to the Fort Buchanan community, Fort Buchanan tenant organizations and U.S. Army Reserve. Contracting support includes minor construction, services and supplies. Its primary customers are the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Buchanan and installation department of public works.
Considerable damage coupled with widespread power outages on the island come at a time when contracting operations are at their height during the end of the fiscal year. With Davis providing the sole contracting support for urgent needs, much of the contracting workload has been shifted within the field directorate to include the MICC office at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Jim Ward, the director of MICC-Fort Jackson, said that while they have not yet began to see the migration of workload from Fort Buchannan, he and his staff "are ready to support them any way we can."
The devastation from Hurricane Maria came less than a month after residents of the island and Fort Buchanan endured Hurricane Irma. An assessment of damages related to Irma on the post was approximately $1 million. The assessment following Maria continues. Officials at FDO-Fort Sam Houston are working with the Fort Buchanan contracting director to identify and speed the execution of urgent requirements related to the disaster as the fiscal year draws to a close.
Also, in response to ongoing recovery operations, two MICC Soldiers from the 922nd Contracting Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, arrived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the evening of Sept. 24 to support the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command's sustainment assessment team. The team is expected to depart for Puerto Rico Sept. 26. This is the third contracting team to be deployed from the MICC during this hurricane season.
Originally a subordinate contracting office to the Army Reserve Contracting Center at Fort Dix, New Jersey, the Fort Buchanan contract staff was reorganized as a contracting activity under the MICC in July 2011. It has since been realigned a number of times before it became a subordinate unit to the 412th Contracting Support Brigade at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in October 2013. With the inactivation of the brigade earlier this year, it now reports to the MICC FDO-Fort Sam Houston.
Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, the MICC consists of about 1,500 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of Soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 Soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, preparing more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.