The Ohio National Guard has sent more than 100 airmen and soldiers to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in a growing U.S. troop presence that has reached 11,000, according to the Defense Department.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm Sept.19 with winds up to 155 mph, knocking out power and causing widespread destruction. That followed a glancing blow from powerful Hurricane Irma less than two weeks before Maria unleashed havoc in the Caribbean.
Some leaders in Puerto Rico have urged a faster U.S. response because of the dire situation many on the island of 3.5 million U.S. residents face without food, water, medicine and power. U.S. authorities have pledged to deliver whatever aid is necessary.
This week, the Ohio Air and Army National Guard sent 80 troops to the U.S. territory.
Thirty Ohio guardsmen flew to the island Tuesday to prepare for the arrival of other troops and assess logistical demands, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Beougher, a Guard spokeswoman in Columbus.
Twenty Air National Guardsmen from both the 178th Wing in Springfield and the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, which flies C-130 cargo planes, transported a mobile kitchen trailer to the U.S. territory on Wednesday.
On Thursday, 30 Guardsmen with the Columbus-based 285th Area Support Medical Co. left for Puerto Rico to offer medical assistance
In the Virgin Islands, Ohio troops included six Air National Guardsmen with the 269th Combat Communications Squadron in Springfield who deployed a month ago.
Twenty troops with the Port Clinton-based 200th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operation Repair Squadron (RED HORSE) were sent to the Virgin Islands on Sept. 13.
The Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has flown more than 650 passengers and transported more than 1.3 million pounds of relief supplies since late August to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The C-17 wing transported the aid to disaster zones after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria struck within three weeks. The unit has sent 13 reservists to Florida and Georgia to support hurricane relief work, also, according to Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a wing spokeswoman.
Wright-Patterson Medical Center deployed three, three-member medical teams to Puerto Rico, one of which remains on the island, according to Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer.
Through Thursday, the U.S. military reported it’s delivered to Puerto Rico 7.3 million meals, 5.3 million liters of water, 22,000 cots, 11,000 tarps, 278 generators and more than 100 field trucks and drivers.
The U.S. naval hospital ship Comfort with 250-patient beds arrived at the island Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.
Defense Department leaders have said the demand for humanitarian assistance is significant and slowed the deployment of U.S. troops to overseas missions.