Rio Grande, PR- Approximately 32 members of the newly created U.S. Army Reserve -PR Search and Rescue Team conducted an exercise at a local training facility, Sept. 22-23, with the intent of developing and sustaining critical skills on structural collapse techniques, such as lifting, moving, breaking and breaching and shoring.
"The Soldiers were highly motivated and ready to learn," said 1st Lt. Jose Tristani, Officer in Charge of the Search and Rescue Team, which was originally trained at the Florida State Fire College, in February 2018.
According to Tristani, the Soldiers were able to learn new techniques on how to save lives.
"We were exposed to different ways to cut cement to reach victims easier. Every emergency is different, so we need to learn different ways to face the situations," said Tristani, a native of Juana Diaz, with eleven years of service in the U.S. Army.
The officer also celebrated the fact that the training was conducted with zero accidents.
"In the 6 months that the team has been established, we have conducted two major training events. We have had zero accidents in each one of them," said Tristani, who also stated the team will be conducting hands on training every three months.
Spec. Naisvette Andujar is one of the seven female soldiers that compose the first federal U.S. Army Search and Rescue team in the Caribbean.
"I feel safer now after the training, because I learned different ways to do a very difficult job," added Andujar.
The establishment of the Search and Rescue Team is one of the immediate measures the largest federal U.S. Army command in the Caribbean has taken, as a result of the lessons learned during the emergency created by hurricane Maria.
As widely reported, shortly after hurricane Maria, the communication with the continental United States was extremely affected for a significant amount of time.
"It is very important to train on these search and rescue skills. In Puerto Rico we have a tropical weather, which is bound to have hurricanes, mud slides or heavy rains. Search and rescue is a critical capability in this weather," said Andujar, a Jayuya resident, who is also attending college for a degree in General Sciences.
The Army Reserve-PR Search and Rescue team is comprised of different military occupational specialties, such as engineers, transporters, water purification specialists, fire fighters, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialties, among others.
The next search and rescue training is scheduled for the month of November, in preparation for the team's validation in December 2018, by Army North Search and Rescue personnel.
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.
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, Islas Virgenes and its headquarters at Fort Buchanan.