By LTC Carlos M. Cuebas, Chief Public Affairs OfficerAugust 9, 2018
FORT BUCHANAN, PR- Thirteen Soldiers from the 246th Quartermaster Company, U.S. Army Reserve Puerto Rico received the mission , Aug. 7, to assist the local Bureau of Forensic Sciences in the transportation and storage of human remains, as part of a Defense to Civil Authorities operations.
In recent weeks, public reports of a bad smell near the Bureau's storage trailers prompted inspections from authorities and led to a public outcry.
The 90 days Army Reserve-Puerto Rico mission is the result of an assistance request the local government submitted to the federal government to help in the crisis, earlier this month.
Title 10 of the U.S. Code Section 12304a, amended by the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, provides new authority for the Active and Reserve Components to assist citizens and communities in the United States during domestic emergencies to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate great property damage.
"It is important to note, that the responsibility of maintaining accountability of remains and other operational aspects of the state organization, still reside in the Bureau of Forensic Sciences," said Col. William Griffin, U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico's Chief of Staff.
Griffin stated that the mission is part of a whole of government approach that includes several federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Griffin, the Soldiers are currently inspecting their equipment and getting ready for the mission, which the command expects will start around the weekend.
"Our Soldiers will not conduct autopsies, but assist pathologists in the process, which should expedite matters and reduce the crisis. They are true professionals," added Griffin.
Based on their regular mission, Army Reserve Soldiers in Puerto Rico are mobilized around the world, as part of a total force.
The command currently has approximately 300 Soldiers deployed, in places such as Cuba, El Salvador and others.
"As a federal Army command, our mission is regularly outside Puerto Rico. That is why it is a huge privilege for us to be able to assist the local community in times of extreme need, as we did in the aftermath of hurricane Maria," said Griffin.
The command has identified four Mobile Integrated Remains Collections Systems in case the mission requires additional storage space.
This mission is a clear example of the Army Reserve substantial capabilities that are vital in disaster and emergency response.
With approximately 5,000 Soldiers and an economic impact of over 285 million dollars in the local economy, the U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico has units all around the island of Puerto Rico and in Virgin Islands.