SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico —
The Georgia Air National Guard’s 202nd Engineering Installation Squadron deployed here April 15 to spearhead hurricane recovery efforts for the 156th Airlift Wing’s base communications infrastructure.
This is the first of several trips to Muniz Air National Guard Base to restore, protect and sustain vital communications equipment located inside a facility significantly damaged when hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the island last year.
56th Wing Recovers From Hurricane Strikes
“Three months into my command, our wing was devastated by two back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico, and we’re still in that process — continuing to work with higher–level command to get us through the recovery phases and rebuild the wing,” said Air Force Col. Raymond Figueroa, commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. “It’s a total team effort, and we really appreciate having the support from our Guard brothers and to have the expertise, the right people in the right places, to support us.”
The project’s magnitude presents an opportunity for the airmen who normally work for the Air National Guard one weekend a month and two weeks a year to learn from this scale of work and have a significant positive impact on the base and the surrounding community.
The primary initial survey will take place more than two weeks, then a project engineering package detailing all of the materials, personnel, equipment and cost estimates will be developed to lay out the plan for the project going forward.
Evaluating, Validating Base Communications System
“We’ve come to validate everything that currently exists in the data center, determine what communication equipment has to be moved and plan for communication down the road including networking, voice services and other secondary services that support the base,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Mark Buchanan, 202nd EIS cyber systems superintendent and cable systems integrator base level. “The critical piece is that commercial services that come in on this base also land in this building that was damaged, which adds another moving piece integral to completing this project.”
With hurricane season fast approaching, eight technicians from the 202nd EIS, located at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, along with two technicians from the 241st EIS, located at Volunteer Air National Guard Station, Tennessee, pulled together their team, coordinated with multiple base agencies. They were on site within three weeks to begin work on the planning stage of the long-term project.
The total project is a collaborative effort among Air Guard EIS units, military civil engineer teams, 156th Communications Flight, Defense Information Systems Agency and commercial service providers to provide a cost-effective solution to bolster and protect the 156th AW’s communication infrastructure.
“I’ve been looking forward to coming back to Puerto Rico to help out since the hurricanes hit this area,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Wilson Gardner, 202nd EIS airfield systems technician. “I was here working on a project before last year’s hurricanes hit and enjoyed it, so I wanted to come back and help the community get back in order.”
The 202nd EIS, a tenant unit of the 116th Air Control Wing, provides installation, repair and serviceability of sophisticated command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and air reconnaissance to Air Force installations worldwide. The unit also provides disaster relief to assist state authorities during emergencies by providing disaster recovery, restoration and repair of Georgia Department of Defense and federal and civil communications infrastructure.
The squadron supports more than seven Air National Guard wings and 22 geographically separated units throughout the southeastern U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.