Eastover, SC (WLTX) – Members of the South Carolina National Guard are preparing to head to Puerto Rico.
Over the next few days, the 150 engineer soldiers are packing up supplies to help clear roads and restore infrastructure once they arrive on the island.
“All of these soldiers that are going over, highly experienced both in austere conditions and combat and also in relief operations,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the adjutant general for South Carolina said.
The island was devastated by Hurricane Maria this month, as that storm's powerful winds knocked out much of the infrastructure in the country, leaving most of Puerto Rico's 3.6 million inhabitants with no food, water, or power. Some areas also dealt with heavy flooding that's as bad as what was experienced in Texas with Hurricane Harvey.
The National Guardsmen are packing up chainsaws, trucks and other supplies.
“It will be very austere, this company is carrying down at least five days that they can exist on their own, they won't be a burden on the system and of course we'll resupply them from the U.S. until the systems are able to come up in Puerto Rico,” Livingston explained.
Their main priority is clearing emergency routes and restoring infrastructure.
"We've done this twice in two years now and as somebody who was activated for both of those I can say that I've seen it, I've helped it and I'm looking forward to helping these guys get through it,” Lieutenant Thomas Kaiser said. “We all know what it's like being from the Midlands and from the coast, so we're all looking forward to making a positive change there".
They will fly out of Shaw Air Force Base Sunday and are expected to stay on the island for at least 30-60 days.
Their equipment will be shipped to them.
“They’ll initially be on the ground late Sunday, early Monday. They leave here Sunday on aircraft. They’ll be able to do a lot of handworks, they’ll also be going to falling in on some of the Puerto Rican equipment,” Livingston said. “They’ll be able to be very effective on the front end.”
“Our hearts certainly go out to the people of Puerto Rico, great devastation down there, great hardship and we're just proud to be able to have the opportunity to help them in this time of need,” the adjutant general said.