SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Soldiers of the Delta 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) are recognized in an award ceremony for their crucial work during power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico.
Delta 249th, comprised of all reserve Soldiers, specializes in restoring overhead power distribution.
Platoon Sergeant Sgt. 1st Class Jason Henley, from Kingston, Massachusetts, said in his 15 years as a lineman he has never witnessed this level of damage to power infrastructure.
"I've witnessed a lot of storms and I've seen a lot of devastation throughout my career, everything from ice to hurricane related destruction, but nothing on this scale."
The 249th arrived in Puerto Rico on Oct. 10, and from the start adapted their skills to a different electrical system.
"Learning the differences in this system was our biggest challenge but we quickly adapted to the needs for each situation," said Prime Power Overhead Distribution Specialist Spc. Hunter Browning, from Preston, Connecticut. "We don't use very many concrete poles stateside and here we had to figure out how to set them to restore power to residential neighborhoods."
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division Commander Brig. Gen. Diana Holland recognized each of the 23 Soldiers during the ceremony.
"USACE took on a historic and unprecedented mission and I am so proud of every single one of you," said Holland. "The fact that you all volunteered to help our own goes to show the best of America."
Through all the challenges overcome by Delta 249th, Browning stated the one thing he will remember most is the strength and kindness of the people of Puerto Rico.
"This woman we met had been without power for over two months, she came out with a huge American flag," said Hunter during one of many missions in Puerto Rico. "She was so proud Soldiers were here and she said we were her heroes."
"Everywhere we went to work people came out, some who didn't have much, and would offer us what they had," added Henley.
Holland closed the ceremony by encouraging the Soldiers to pass on their experience in Puerto Rico.
"I encourage you to tell the story, tell your story of what you saw and what's going on here."
The 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) is a versatile power generation battalion assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that provides commercial-level power to military units and federal relief organizations during full-spectrum operations.
Puerto Rico has 2,400 miles of transmission lines across the island and 30,000 miles of distribution lines with 300 sub-stations. It is estimated that 80 percent of the grid was affected by Hurricane Maria.