Some two dozen Iowa National Guard soldiers are leaving the state Tuesday for duty in Puerto Rico.
Iowa National Guard spokesman, Colonel Greg Hapgood says they are flying out on KC-135 Stratotanker from the 185th Air Refueling Wing from Sioux City.
He says the airmen are from 185th Refueling Wing and the 132nd Wing in Des Moines. “Their job as security forces members is just like a civilian law enforcement officer, but they wear a military uniform,” Hapgood says. He says they will supplement the security personnel in Puerto Rico as they work with residents recovering from Hurricane Maria.
“To keep people safe, to make sure that people have what they need. To get them to safe areas, to keep them away from hazardous areas, and just to help things smoothly and move forward in the response and recovery phase,” Hapgood explains. Puerto Rico has requested support from Iowa under an agreement between all 50 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia, to assist one another in times of crisis.
Hapgood says they plan for soldiers and airmen to be gone for two week, but they are not sure if it will take longer or take less time. This is the third recovery mission for Iowa National Guard soldiers in recent weeks.
“We had Iowa National Guard personnel who responded to Hurricane Harvey in Houston and also Hurricane Irma in Florida. All of those individuals are back and that equipment is back,” Hapgood says. “It’s been a busy six weeks for certain for the Iowa National Guard, but we are prepared for whatever it is we need to go do.”
Hapgood says electricity is out for the entire island and food and water is scarce — which raises a lot of security concerns there.