Puerto Rico ANG Gets Its Own Disaster Relief Beddown Systems

The Puerto Rico Air National Guard recently received two of its own Disaster Relief Beddown Systems, the 156th Wing announced in an Aug. 14 release.

The systems—which allow their owners to erect tent cities to house first responders when responding to emergencies, such as the earthquakes that plagued the territory beginning in December—were reallocated to the PRANG from the North Carolina ANG’s 145th Airlift Wing and the North Dakota ANG’s 119th Wing, according to the release.

“A DRBS contains about 300,000 pounds of equipment necessary to support response personnel during disaster relief,” states the release. “One system includes 16 tents that can house up to 150 personnel and provides bathrooms, showers, and laundry machines. It also includes generators, lighting kits, and air conditioning to ensure operations can be placed in the most austere locations.”

An Airman with the Ohio Air National Guard’s 200th RED HORSE Squadron helps set up DRBS equipment in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, in January 2020. Photo: Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/staff

These systems also include reverse osmosis water purification units that can generate as many as 30,000 gallons of clean water each day.

PRANG previously had to depend on other states to lend out one of 20 systems that were scattered at locations across the United States since none were based in Puerto Rico or elsewhere in the Caribbean, said PRANG Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Paul N. Loiselle.

This was the case in January, when Ohio and New Mexico-based RED HORSE Airmen traveled to the territory to construct loaner systems in earthquake-affected areas.

Ohio Air National Guard airmen with the 200th RED HORSE Squadron set up a tent city for military responders in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, using items from a Disaster Relief Beddown System, in January 2020. Photo: Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory/staff

This dependence made for expensive asks when natural disasters hit Puerto Rico—since C-130s are normally required to haul the systems between locations—and slowed the PRANG’s response time to disasters.

“These assets will save lives in the event of a disaster. Having them prepositioned on the island will reduce the air traffic congestion, minimize the time required to set up the full beddown system, and eliminate the costs associated with air transportation to and from the island,” 156th Civil Engineer Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Charles Comfort said in the release. “In addition, when required, positioning in Puerto Rico enables rapid assistance [to be] provided to other islands and countries in the Caribbean and Latin American regions. Building bridges to the Americas is what our unit does best and this equipment enables our bilingual engineer force to provide critical assistance to devastated populations at the time when it’s needed most.”

In January, Loiselle told Air Force Magazine that it was hoping to get two of the systems permanently based in Puerto Rico, but they weren’t adding any new kits at the time.

The PRANG’s receipt of these systems will enhance the Puerto Rico National Guard’s ability to respond to and operate amid disasters, said Puerto Rico Adjutant General Maj. Gen. José J. Reyes.

“The DRBS kits place the men and women of the Puerto Rico National Guard in a better position to support the people of Puerto Rico in case of an emergency,” he said in an Aug. 17 statement to Air Force Magazine. “These assets can help save lives during a disaster, as proven earlier this year when DRBS kits from the Ohio National Guard were deployed to Puerto Rico to assist in the aftermath of several earthquakes that caused much damage to the island’s southwest region.”