SALINAS, PR- Approximately 75 U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico Soldiers participated in the Vigilant Guard exercise, 4-14 March, at different locations across the island, in direct coordination with the Puerto Rico National Guard, Army North and different federal and state level agencies.
"This is a great effort that is helping us exercise how we work as one team, in case of a future emergency," said Brig. Gen Dustin A. Shultz, senior federal Army officer in the Caribbean.
As part of the event, Shultz joined Lt. Gen Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Army North Commander who traveled to the island, and together with Brig. Gen. Jose J. Reyes, Adjutant General of Puerto Rico, constituted the Army team during the exercise.
"This is a wonderful training opportunity for us, to learn from each other. The most important thing is our preparation for a future emergency," said Buchanan during a joint press conference.
The U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico established an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at their headquarters, but also had a Liaison Officer at the Puerto Rico National Guard facilities.
"This was a great training opportunity because we had all Department of Defense components present, being able to plan together how to respond as one team," said Lt. Col Carlos Rivera, U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico Defense Support to Civil Authorities Officer.
One of the key capabilities deployed by the Army Reserve-Puerto Rico were the communication nodes.
Sgt. Josué Rivera, from C Co. 35th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico, was in charge of one of the three Command Post Nodes deployed in support of Vigilant Guard.
"My team was able to provide real time voice and data to the EOC's, and in addition, we were able to install, operate and maintain Commercial Coalition Equipment, which allowed us to provide commercial phone and internet services to the users, something that was critical during the emergency created by Hurricane Maria," said Rivera.
Another main U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico capability employed during the exercise was the Urban Search and Rescue team, which deployed to Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center.
"This exercise was very good because implemented role players. That element brought a lot of reality to the event, and truly tested our ability to perform our mission," said Lt. José Tristani, Officer in Charge of the Search and Rescue team.
The U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico organized and trained the Urban Search and Rescue team, as a result of the lessons learned from the emergencies created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
"Being able to actively participate in the Vigilant Guard exercise, certainly has made our team more confident to work with external agencies, learning from their experiences and enabling a better response in the future," added Tristani.
Other Army Reserve capabilities employed during Vigilant Guard were Engineers, Logistics, Civil Affairs, Transportation, Fuel Distribution, Water Purification and Military Police.
These unique federal Army Reserve capabilities, are already on the island and can be employed, without the need to wait for help from the Continental United States.
"By working together, working as one team, we will be better prepared to respond to a future emergency," said Shultz.
With thousands of members from the National Guard, Army Reserve, Army North, federal and state agencies, Vigilant Guard helped military units unify their efforts to support civilian authorities during an emergency response to an emergency in Puerto Rico.