MUNIZ AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Puerto Rico – Despite the challenges of Hurricane Maria’s aftermath, the Puerto Rico Air National Guard continues to fly missions and delivered six pallets full of water bottles, diapers, electric generators, power saws and other donated supplies from the Washington D.C. area Oct. 5.
“To be able to fly this mission for Puerto Rico – there are no words to describe the feeling,” said Major Jose Roman, who served as the aircraft commander on the C-130 Hercules aircraft for the mission. “This is what it is all about, to wear this uniform and help people in need.”
The C-130 and its crew all hailed from the PRANG’s 156th Airlift Wing. The donations came from two different groups – individual members of the District of Columbia National Guard and members of Unidos Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico United) in the D.C. area.
The supplies were packaged by Airmen working in several units at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Many of the Airmen who volunteered to support the effort have family in Puerto Rico or were moved by reports of the struggles on the island territory since it was hit by the storm on Sept. 20.
“We have family and friends there. The pain they are going through – we are trying to do something to ease the pain,” said Staff. Sgt. Angela Galban, who worked with Unidos Puerto Rico to make the collection.
Galban and other Airmen at Andrews worked late into the night to ready the pallets and other supplies for shipment.
“We’ve sent 24 pallets so far and have about 100 more still to go,” she said. “They have come from all over the community. The chamber of commerce has contributed and many local businesses. As long as we have supplies, we will continue to send them.”
On board the aircraft, PRANG co-pilot 1st Lt. Greg Gutierrez said the diapers included in the shipment particularly impacted him.
“I have two sons. Anyone who has raised children know how important it is to have diapers. It just hits you when you see people you don’t even know you, making these donations,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Pagnotta, 11thg Aerial Port Squadron, was another of the Andrews Airmen helping in the collection and delivery process.
“Several of my wife’s family members were left homeless from the storm. Her whole family was impacted in one way or the other. Making donations, working after hours – it’s the least we can do to help out,” he said.
Master Sgt. Nancy Rivera, a personnel specialist with the 113th Airlift Wing of the D.C. Air National Guard, took military leave time and flew on the C-130 to Puerto Rico to help see the supplies through to their final destination. After an early evening arrival at Muniz, she planned to meet a cousin who lives on Puerto Rico to help make the final leg of the delivery.
“This is personal to me,” she said. “My family was impacted and will be receiving some of these supplies.”
The two pilots on the mission, Roman and Gutierrez, said the mission to deliver supplies to Puerto Rico represent a highlight of their military careers.
“Tomorrow, when they have a mission for us, we’ll go. But this one, I will always remember,” Guttierrez said.