Puerto Rico has experienced the longest blackout in U.S. history, but the Lowcountry is playing a key role in turning its lights back on.
Another massive shipment from Joint Base Charleston will provide tons of equipment needed to help bring power back to the island.
Members of the 841st Transportation Battalion and local longshoremen teamed up Tuesday at the Naval Weapons Station to load the military ship USNS Brittin with trucks, trailers and other items needed for the humanitarian relief effort.
“The primary purpose of this shipment and the ones to follow is to restore electricity to Puerto Rico,” said Navy Lt. Brenton Breed.
About half of that territory’s 3.4 million residents remain without electricity two months after Hurricane Maria caused massive damage to the U.S. territory, according to the latest figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Navy’s roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship is scheduled to make a total of six humanitarian aid trips from here to Puerto Rico in the coming weeks. The vessel will depart no later than Friday on a journey that takes about four days. On board will be 305 vehicles which are mostly power company bucket trucks, 223 trailers for living quarters and 41 containers with supplies such as stoves, tarps, water, cots and blankets, said Marvin Krause, Joint Base Charleston spokesman.
In all, the ship will haul 11,000 tons of humanitarian aid.
The Brittin will be making its second journey from here carrying equipment and supplies for Puerto Rico. On its first trip late last month, the ship hauled almost 7,000 tons including 300 generators capable of supporting hospitals, schools and other large facilities, 43 power company bucket trucks, 33 digger derricks, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, stoves, cots, construction and hygiene equipment and refrigeration units.
Joint Base Charleston also flew a contingent of 180 volunteer power company linemen from Texas to Puerto Rico.
The ship returned here Sunday for reloading. Information was not available Tuesday on whether more electrical workers would be leaving Charleston to work in Puerto Rico.
Joint Base Charleston is the central hub for disaster relief equipment, supplies and workers in the federal government’s sustained efforts to rebuild the island. The base is one of a few U.S. Department of Defense installations with sea and aerial port facilities, a key factor in in its relief role. The work supports the FEMA relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
The 841st Battalion includes 10 full-time active duty members, 20 Army reservists and many civilians. Nearly 15,000 federal civilian personnel and military service members, including more than 2,800 FEMA personnel, are on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands engaged in response and recovery operations from hurricanes Maria and Irma.
The Army Corps of Engineers has removed 250,000 cubic yards of debris across 21 municipalities. The Corps just completed its 500th generator installation and also has installed 8,000 temporary roofs.
Dozens of volunteer organizations are working closely with local communities to perform housing cleanup and debris removal in addition to providing food, shelter, water, and medical services.
They include Habitat for Humanity, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Salvation Army, Scientology volunteer ministers, AmeriCorps and Warfighter Disaster Response Team, which is a group comprised of Afghanistan and Iraq combat veterans.
Source: The Post and Courier