FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico -- The Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve - Puerto Rico, the largest federal U.S. Army command permanently stationed in the Caribbean, are ready to assist civil authorities in case of natural disasters as the 2018 hurricane season begins.

"We have taken specific steps to ensure we have more capabilities available to help the people of Puerto Rico in case we have another emergency in the future," said Brig. Gen. Dustin A. Shultz, commanding general of the Army Reserve forces in the region.

It is important to note that the local government and the National Guard are the first responders to any natural disaster situation. However, the state government can request assistance from the Army Reserve through the federal government chain of command.

"If the state government and the National Guard need the federal military assistance, there is no need to wait for resources to arrive from the continental United States. Our command is right here in Puerto Rico, prepositioned and ready to assist immediately," said Shultz.

As demonstrated in the aftermath of hurricane Maria, the U.S. Army Reserve - Puerto Rico has specialized logistical resources that can make the difference during an emergency.

As a matter of fact, during the emergency response to the recent hurricane, the U.S. Army Reserve - Puerto Rico mobilized approximately 2,000 Soldiers in a very short time, to assist the local government with resources, skills and equipment, without having to wait for personnel to arrive from the mainland.

Among the services provided to local communities, Soldiers purified over 1 million gallons of water, distributed millions of Meals Ready to Eat, cleared over 125 miles of roads, facilitated communications around the island, provided medical services to over 12,000 patients, assisted the Puerto Rico Forensics Sciences Institute and assisted in the receipt, staging and distribution of materials to restore the electric grid.

"For the first time, we will have a federal, military search and rescue team available in the island to assist communities, if needed. Also, we are in a transformation process to create geographical command with authority over all federal Army units in the region, which will expedite our reaction time," said Shultz, who was assigned to Puerto Rico in September 2017.

The U.S. Army Reserve - Puerto Rico regular mission is to deploy Soldiers and equipment around the globe, to complement the active-duty forces. There are currently approximately 300 Army Reserve - Puerto Rico Soldiers deployed outside the island.

"Our focus is to continue sustaining the level of readiness of our equipment and Soldiers to support the needs of the nation, anywhere, anytime, as we have done in the past 96 years, while we remain sensitive to a possible future emergency in the island," said Shultz.

With approximately 5,000 Soldiers, the U.S. Army Reserve - Puerto Rico has units in all four corners of the island to include Aguadilla, Mayaguez, Yauco, Ponce, Juana Diaz, Ceiba, Salinas, Puerto Nuevo, its headquarters at Fort Buchanan and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.