CT National Guard sends more members to Puerto Rico - WFSB 3 Connecticut

CT National Guard sends more members to Puerto Rico

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CT National Guard members prepare to depart from East Granby to Puerto Rico. (WFSB) CT National Guard members prepare to depart from East Granby to Puerto Rico. (WFSB)
(WFSB) (WFSB)
Federal agents unload supplies in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico. (CBS) Federal agents unload supplies in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico. (CBS)
EAST GRANBY, CT (WFSB) -

The Connecticut Air National Guard sent additional guardsmen down to Puerto Rico to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

One group of guardsmen already left a few days ago. The second group left from the base in East Granby on Friday morning.

"We're ready for it,” Senior Master Sgt. Chris with the Connecticut Air National Guard said. “We've trained for it."

The effort comes as donations continue to pour in from across the state to aid storm victims. The message from the people on the island continues to be that they are in dire need of food, water, and supplies.

"We brought 16,000 pounds of water down yesterday, just bottled water to get people through the day," 1st Lt. Brian Hinckley with the Connecticut Air National Guard said.

The group of about a dozen guardsmen took off on Friday morning with supplies including generators and water strapped to the Connecticut National Guard C-130H cargo plane. 

The Connecticut Air National Guard said as Puerto Rico continues to rebuild, it will become even more important for organized, professional teams to make sure the cargo gets to where it's needed most.

These guardsmen are going directly to the airport in San Juan, which has been serving as the hub for all relief flights.

Once they land, in a couple of hours, they only have a small window of time to drop off personnel and supplies, before heading back to the mainland. On the ground, the guardsmen will load and unload cargo and make sure all of the supplies get to where it needs to go on the island.

"You see Connecticut tails, right next to Missouri, and Kentucky, and Georgia. Lots of C130's down there,” Hinckley said.

The Connecticut Air National Guard said they want to help in any way that they can.

"It's one of those things where, you can spend your entire National Guard career and never be called up,” Master Sgt. Joshua Mead with Connecticut Air National Guard said. “But to be called up to help and support other people makes you feel good inside. It really does."

This comes after the White House authorized waiving the Jones Act for the island, which loosens shipping rules and expands access to things such as food, medicine, and clothing.

More than 120 Connecticut National Guardsmen have supported recent hurricane relief efforts including, missions in Texas, Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

It's unclear when these guardsmen will return back to Connecticut. But, they say they'll stay down there for as long as they're needed.

"We're going to stay as long as we can, and give them as much help as we can,” Mead said.

Channel 3 spoke with the chairperson of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Hartford. Ana Valentin-Jackson said her family is still living on the Caribbean island.

She said the waiver was a big step, especially because it's been hard to get donations down to Puerto Rico.

"People have really outdone themselves beautifully donating, but at the same time we have warehouses full of donations that are sitting, waiting for a truck to be taken to the port," Valentin-Jackson said.

Anyone looking to make a donation can do so at RedCross.org.

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