Maryland National Guard deploys to Puerto Rico to take part in recovery effort

WASHINGTON — National Guard troops from Maryland are in Puerto Rico helping residents who live in remote areas of the island get fresh drinking water.

Fifteen National Guardsmen from the 729th Quartermaster Composite Supply Company headed to Puerto Rico Saturday afternoon to help with hurricane relief efforts. They flew out of Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, Marlyland, which is outside of Baltimore. They were headed to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.

The troops will be there for about 30 days.

Their main mission is purifying contaminated water. Col. Charles Kohler with the Maryland Army National guard said this is the first unit from Maryland to be deployed to Puerto Rico since the hurricane hit.

“We’ll be helping the Puerto Rico National Guard and other guardsmen that are down there right now working the purification system,” Kohler said.

Kohler said the purification process is a chemical process that makes contaminated water drinkable.

“The purification process is a reverse osmosis process that they use chemicals and filters to remove all the sediments, as well as the contaminants that are in the water itself,” he said.

The Maryland Guardsman are also purifying seawater to make it drinkable.

In addition to purifying the water, setting up distributing points in remote areas of the island will be another key piece of their mission.

“They have Water Buffaloes (an Army Water Buffalo is 400-gallon tank on a trailer) which is basically a Humvee with a trailer on it that has a tank on the back of it,” Kohler said. “What they’ll do is take that out into some of the remote areas, making sure that people have clean drinking water.”

“It’s really exciting for us and it’s very humbling for us to be able to go over there and work hand-in-hand with other guard members and help the people of Puerto Rico,” said Sgt. Aubrey Mitsch, a medic who was pulled from another unit to help with the 729th. “We’re all really excited to give back to them and show our support.”

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