NY National Guard Soldiers deploy to Puerto Rico to help with reconstruction

Soldiers from the 204th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Binghamton, will help construct houses with Habitat for Humanity

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Soldiers from the 442nd Military Police Company assist in distributing supplies in Puerto Rico in October 2017.

BINGHAMTON, NY (07/27/2018) (readMedia)-- The New York Army National Guard will deployed 45 Soldiers to Puerto Rico on Saturday, July 28 who will assist in the construction of housing near San Juan.

The Soldiers are members of the 204th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Binghamton, N.Y. and will work with Habitat for Humanity on the project as part of the Department of Defense innovative readiness training program.

They will be leaving from different airports across the state.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, which caused massive destruction on Puerto Rico, the New York National Guard deployed 300 Soldiers to help. Soldiers from the 152nd Engineer Company, the 442nd Military Police Company and the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment were sent to the island.

The 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation flew four UH-60 Blackhawks on relief missions.

The New York Air National Guard also flew missions bringing supplies to the island.

The innovative readiness training program uses Soldiers skills in civic engagement missions.

The Soldiers are trained in the skills needed to build houses, including pouring concrete frames and other construction tasks frequently underutilized in military training.

"This project will improve individual Soldier skills within each of their MOSs (military occupational skills)," said Maj. Dan Colomb, the 204th Engineer Battalion operations officer and detachment leader for the deployment.

The mission will draw on engineer specialties such as plumbing, carpentry, masonry, electricians and quarry specialists for the project.

The military engineers will conduct "mostly concrete work to include rebar, building and framing forms, pouring, and finishing rough walls, ceiling and floors," Colomb, from Niskayuna, N.Y., said.

The project, a three-family structure with concrete walls built to withstand hurricane force winds, will be worked on from July 30 through August 10 before turning the project over to the next military rotation of engineers.

"We will most likely also be doing electrical and plumbing work as the plans have those utilities built inside the concrete walls," Colomb said.

The Individual Readiness Training event is an opportunity to leverage federal training resources that benefit local communities. The program benefits military units through unique training that contributes directly to military readiness and provides support to underserved communities.

Military unit rotations to Puerto Rico to support the construction efforts began in late spring and are expected to continue through the summer. The New York engineers will be the fourth rotation of military personnel to support the housing site.

The Soldiers will work in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, providing the engineering labor and expertise on the job site while sharpening the individual Soldier civil engineering skills. Habitat for Humanity owns the jobsite, the construction plans and provides local project managers, supply deliveries and coordinates for necessary building inspections to finish the site.

Colomb said the Soldiers are looking forward to their opportunity to practice their construction skills in such a worthwhile recovery project that will benefit multiple families.

"It is a truly wonderful and rewarding experience," Colomb said. "You can certainly see the devastation almost a year later, and knowing that we can meet some of our training objectives while at the same time, give back to one of our communities is terrific."

The unit will return to New York August 11, 2018.