Maj. Gen. Bruce Hackett, commanding general of the 80th Training Command (TASS), and Brig. Gen. Hector Lopez, the commanding general of the 94th Training Division, travelled to Puerto Rico recently to celebrate the relocation and reopening of the 94th's 5th Battalion's new schoolhouse at Fort Buchanan after Hurricane Maria demolished the battalion's old training facility. The celebration was somewhat bittersweet, though, as Hackett and Lopez were also on the island to assist with the planned transition and approved reassignment of all units stationed in Puerto Rico to the operational control of the 1st Mission Support Command.
This reassignment means the 94th will be saying goodbye to 5th BN, which will continue to oversee the instruction of the mortuary affairs class but is scheduled to report to the 1st MSC as of October, 2018. Both commanders met with Brig. Gen. Dustin Shultz, commanding general of the 1st MSC, during their visit to discuss ongoing realignment plans and ensure a smooth and seamless transition. For now, the 5th BN still belongs to the 94th and its higher command, the 80th, and Hackett's visit certainly reinforced how highly valued the battalion is to the command in its ongoing training mission.
The crowd that gathered at Fort Buchanan for the ribbon cutting ceremony on the afternoon of 13 February represented a diverse group, encompassing Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, civilians and retired personnel, all gathered to honor the U.S. Military's resolve in the face of adverse conditions. Symbolically, the ceremony represented the U.S. Army Reserve's ability to immediately adapt and overcome hardships, in this case the devastating natural disaster of Hurricane Maria. Although the 5th BN's training facility had been severely damaged, 5th BN quickly identified a new location and rapidly shifted their resources to the new schoolhouse, minimizing the impact on training and carrying on the instruction of the essential courses without missing a cycle.
Hackett concisely encapsulated why the new schoolhouse represented the best of what the men and women under his command had to offer. "Let this building serve as a monument to the resiliency efforts displayed by the Soldiers and citizens of Puerto Rico in building renewed hope caused by the devastation of Irma And Maria in keeping our Army ready," he exclaimed.
Lopez emphasized his strong connection to both the 5th BN and the island, noting that not only is a he a proud native son of Puerto Rico, he also met his wife when she was a teacher 20 years ago at Fort Buchanan, driving home the idea that the day wasn't just about honoring a community, they were here among their family.
Drawing a comparison between the new building and the Soldiers of 5th BN, Fort Buchanan's Garrison Commander Col. Guy Bass noted in his remarks that although the new building was rough around the edges, it had weathered the worst of the storm and it was still standing. "This building is just like the Soldiers it will house," he said. "It is the best in the world at doing its job, but more importantly, it's a tough, resilient survivor."
Hackett and Lopez spoke to the instructors and students of the mortuary affairs class the following day and held a brief awards ceremony to not only honor the careers of members of the civilian staff, but also to honor the heroic and decisive actions of several Soldiers during Hurricane Maria. As the sunny skies turned cloudy, torrential rains and harsh winds bombarded the courtyard as a stark and subtle reminder of how quickly and harshly the weather can change, a fact that was driven home when the command groups later toured the battalion's old, damaged training facility to witness firsthand the terrible destruction caused by the hurricane.