A specially trained unit from the Tennessee Air National Guard deployed Wednesday night to help with hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Sixteen airmen, including one born and raised in Puerto Rico, have trained for years to assist during domestic national disasters, specifically when power is lost.
Alex Luiggi is a senior airman and a member of the 118th Civil Engineer Squadron out of Berry Field in Nashville. His Guard unit is one of only two “prime power” teams in the country. They are trained to provide power after a national emergency. He says he’s been eager to get to work.
“It’s been hard because you can’t help from out here,” says Luiggi.
Luiggi grew up in a small town north of the capital, called Arecibo. He lived in Puerto Rico most of his life and his entire family is still there.
The island has been without power for almost two weeks. The vast majority of the population still doesn't have electricity, and many don’t have access to running water. Authorities have said it could take months to restore utilities.
It’s a bittersweet homecoming for Luiggi.
“I was proud to be able to bring all these generators down to puerto Rico and provide some power,” says Luiggi. “I’m happy to go help my 3.5 million Puerto Ricans down in the island.”
Master Sergeant Joe Hagan oversees the mission. He says his team will deliver 800,000 watts of power — enough to get utilities going for about a month while repairs on the main power grid continue.
The team boarded a massive cargo jet loaded with eight commercial grade generators. The aircraft had just returned from assisting with recovery in the the Virgin Islands.