The U.S. Department Of Defense now has more than 11,000 men and women providing humanitarian relief and support services in Puerto Rico. The types of help that U.S. personnel are rendering includes medical support, aviation, and logistics, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rossello, conveyed during a news conference on Thursday morning.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has its primary focus on distributing food and supplies, as well as providing clean water. In addition, defense personnel has also made it a priority to produce and distribute clean water to island residents, along with delivering generator fuel to Puerto Rico’s hospitals.

Governor Rossello said defense staff will support FEMA, too, in working on the Guajataca Dam spillway and clearing roads.

In an update provided by the DoD yesterday, the agency stated that personnel will expand its distribution of medical support and commodities throughout Puerto Rico. The DoD is providing support to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as FEMA.

U.S. defense department personnel working to restore essential services

The U.S. agency’s personnel is working to restore essential services island-wide. The governor stated that restoration of wastewater and sewage treatment are also on the DoD’s checklist.

He stated that Puerto Rico signed a mission agreement with the U.S.

Army Corps of Engineers to begin “reestablishing electrical transmission and distribution effectively” on the island.

USNS Comfort’s medical mission continues, will pick up patients in island cities

With the USNS Comfort’s arrival and docking in San Juan on October 3, medical personnel is able to see and treat over 200 patients each day, according to Rossello.

The Navy’s hospital ship has more than 500 medical staff aboard. Currently, he estimated, Comfort has around 64 patients.

To ensure that relief agencies and workers are aware of the specific needs of each island region, the Puerto Rican Department of Health, DOD, HHS, and FEMA completed an assessment on Wednesday and provided Comfort with the assessment.

The aim of the assessment is to deploy Comfort appropriately “in a route that makes sense” respective of all patients, the governor explained, according to DoD’s news release yesterday.

The hospital ship, Comfort, is en route to Ponce, one of the island’s largest cities. HHS made the request so that the ship can meet Puerto Rico’s medical requirements. USNS Comfort can also function as a logistical mechanism, the governor stated. The ship is scheduled to pick up patients needing medical attention. Comfort will also deliver medicine, food, water, and additional resources in the cities where it will stop.

Alaska sends 10 soldiers today, assisting in Puerto Rico in aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska are sending 10 Alaskan Guardsman today to provide humanitarian aid in Puerto Rico, the Alaska Dispatch News (AND) reported.

Sergeant Jorge Palermo is one of the Alaskan Guardsmen headed to Puerto Rico. Palermo’s mother and father, as well as his aunts, uncles, and cousins, live on the island. From age 6 until he was 14-years-old, Palermo also lived in Puerto Rico. He stated, “I’m super excited that I am able to help.”

While waiting to hear from his family following when Hurricane Maria hit land, Palermo said that he didn’t have a way to contact them. Waiting to receive word about his family, “was terrifying” and “stressful,” Sergeant Palermo said. According to the AND, he also said, "I had to stop watching the media."

Alaska Guardsmen help communications between first responders and island’s Guardsmen

Palermo and the additional nine Alaskan Guardsmen will assist with the island’s communication, operating a mobile Joint Incident Site Communications Capability system, which is truck-based.

The mobile communication unit is equipped with its own satellite dish and generator. The mobile unit is being flown from to Puerto Rico from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, according to Sergeant Javier Avellaneda, who is also a Guardsman headed to the island.

The communications unit will enable local agencies and first responders to transmit emails, communicate via radio, and make phone calls. Radio communication is an important tool that will allow responders to coordination efforts with the Puerto Rican National Guard, Avellaneda explained.

Estimated 20 soldiers in Alaska wait for word from families in Puerto Rico

Where the Alaska Army National Guard operates the United States’ main missile defense system at Fort Greely, an estimated 20 soldiers from Puerto Rico were still awaiting word from their families on Tuesday, according to Lieutenant Colonel Orlando Ortega, who serves as commander of the Guard's 49th Missile Defense Battalion.

He stated that the past couple of weeks have been very stressful.

In sum, roughly 60 soldiers serving in the National Guard’s 49th Missile Defense Battalion have family in Puerto Rico. Lieutenant Colonel Candis Olmstead is the director of public affairs, Alaska National Guard. Each day, Ortega speaks with the soldiers to offer support and hear about their families. “You’re so far away,” he said, “and you want to help, but you can’t,” according to the AND.

Palermo’s return to the island will mark the first time he has been back in five years. While he feels excited, he said he is also worried about seeing the extent of Hurricane Maria’s devastation. He stated, “Not many Puerto Ricans who are in the United States get the chance to go over,” the AND reported. Additionally, Palermo said, “I’m pretty proud of what the National Guard is doing.”