SAN JUAN, PR- Lt. Col. Jose Ruiz, Battalion Commander of the 1st 333rd Regiment, Multi-functional Training Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico, (school house) explained to the media, Jan 23, how the unit provides professional mortuary affairs training to Soldiers around the nation, in coordination with the Puerto Rico Bureau of Forensic Sciences.
"We have an agreement with the Bureau of Forensic Sciences that allows us to bring Soldiers, who are attending the Mortuary Affairs Advance Leaders Course, to the Bureau, to enhance their training experience," said Ruiz to the reporters in a press conference.
The Army Reserve-Puerto Rico school house is the only Army Reserve academic institution accredited by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to teach the mortuary affairs course in the nation.
"We receive Soldiers from all across the United States, from all the Army components, who travel to the island to attend the course. Based on that we represent the mortuary affairs training center of excellence for the Army Reserve," added Ruiz.
The officer also clarified that the presence of Soldiers at the Bureau, should not be confused with an activation in support to local authorities, while operating the Bureau of Forensics Sciences.
"We are not here to operate the Bureau. We are here as part of the block of instructions of the Mortuary Affairs course," said Ruiz.
During the emergency created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, Soldiers from the Army Reserve-Puerto Rico were mobilized to support the local authorities in several areas, to include the operation of the Bureau of Forensic Sciences, as part of the Defense Support to Civil Authorities.
Sgt. 1st Class Eric Peña, one of the school instructors, described how this course allows Soldiers to grow professionally in the U.S. Army Reserve.
"This course is a requirement for the mortuary affairs Soldiers to get promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. In the mortuary affairs course they will learn how to be a leader, while operating a Mobile Integrated Remains Collections System," said Peña, who is a native of San Sebastián, Puerto Rico.
Both Ruiz and Peña, surrounded by the students, explained that the course's block of instructions includes a staff ride, where the students learn about the local culture.
"We hope the students that travel from the states can return to Puerto Rico one day as tourists. That is a way to also help the local economy," added Ruiz.
According to Ruiz and Peña, the Mortuary Affairs course is only one of the many courses the Army Reserve-Puerto Rico school house offers.
"We have Personnel Administration, Logistics, and Supply courses, among others," added Ruiz.
With over 60 instructors who have trained over six hundred Soldiers in the last two years, the operation of the Army Reserve-Puerto Rico school house represents a local economic investment of over a million dollars.