SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands - While many residents of the CNMI took to the voting lines on Nov. 13, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers currently assigned to Joint Task Group-Saipan, Task Force-West, were on a mission of their own.
The combined effort of off-duty Saipan-based Soldiers with the 9th Mission Support Command assigned to the task force led to the successful cleanup of more than a dozen fellow Reserve Soldiers' homes, Nov. 13, 2018.
"We were given the day off by our leadership, so we decided to help other Soldiers fix up their place," said Staff Sgt. Cristin Duenas, a detachment noncommissioned officer in charge for Soldiers assigned to the CNMI Department of Public Works cleanup crew. "We knew that this storm impacted many of our Soldiers and their families."
For one of those Soldiers impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu, having his fellow Soldiers help him clean up his residence makes him proud to put on the uniform.
"I just want to say how grateful I am to be in the same unit as these Soldiers," said Spc. Jesse Arriola, assigned to the 302nd Quartermaster Company, 9th MSC. "I am very blessed to have them help me out in a time of need, especially in a time like this where almost everything was destroyed."
Like hundreds of families in Saipan, Arriola, along with his wife and child, lost their home.
"This storm destroyed everything in my house, my parents' house and a lot of our families' houses," said Arriola, a resident of Koblerville village. "We have been seeking shelter from hotels to motels to other family residences since the storm."
The mobilized Soldiers brought their personal equipment to help expedite the cleanup.
"Most of the work that we are doing at each house is clearing the large debris," Duenas said. "We come and do the big projects that our Soldiers and their families cannot do on their own like cutting large fallen trees."
The Soldiers were hard at work under the tropical sun separating large piles of scrap metal and roofing tin, cutting huge trees and removing rubbish.
"We do what we can to help our brothers and sisters," Duenas said.
Rebuilding his home will be a long process, Arriola said. But having the piles of debris removed has boosted his morale and reinforced that sense of loyalty and brotherhood, he said.
"I thank God for my fellow Soldiers and for them having my back," Arriola said. "It makes you want to drive on and follow them wherever it is that they are go."