ROOSEVELT ROADS, PUERTO RICO- Approximately a thousand Soldiers from different units within the Army Reserve 1st Mission Support Command, the largest federal U.S. Army command in the Caribbean, are performing their statutory Annual Training across the island, during the months of July and August, as the U.S. territory gets ready for the peak months of the hurricane season, and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 432nd Transportation Company is one of the units conducting its Annual Training, under these conditions.
The unit’s mission is to provide logistical support with the transportation and movement of containerized, non-containerized, dry and/or refrigerated cargo, and bulk water products.
“Our Annual Training mission is critical because it allows us to refresh our motor transport operator’s skills in support to the command’s readiness,” said Staff Sgt. Luis Soto, Motor Transport Non commissioned officer.
The current COVID-19 conditions have not represented an obstacle to the Soldiers, since during the Annual Training, the unit has been successfully implementing specific mitigation measures that enable them to accomplish their mission, while avoiding spreading the pandemic.
“We have implemented the concept of training bubbles. These bubbles are groups of five to eight Soldiers who work together for the duration of the training, avoiding interaction with others,” said Sgt. Angel Barreto, team leader at the 432nd Transportation Company.
But not only had the Soldiers to adjust their training due to the COVID-19, but also due to the proximity of a storm.
“We have adjusted our Annual Training at this time, so we can properly stage the equipment in case we receive a Mission Assignment from FEMA to assist the local authorities, as a result of the storm, which is expected to unleash flooding and landslides on July 29-30,” added Barreto.
In the middle of this very fluid process, many Soldiers remember the role the Army Reserve played during the recovery of hurricane Maria three years ago, as part of the Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission.
“Even with my experience deploying to a combat zone, I have to say that the DSCA missions we did on the island in 2017 really marked my life. In the combat zone we fight against terrorists, but during the recovery after hurricane Maria, we used our combat acquired skills to support our own community,” said Soto.
As the largest federal military force in the Caribbean, Title 10 USC Section 12304a authorizes the Army Reserve to provide disaster assistance to a major natural disaster or emergency in the United States at the request of the governor of a state or territory.