FORT BELVOIR, Va., Dec. 26, 2017 —
A Defense Logistics Agency Energy video highlighting the agency and Task Force Americas’ Hurricane Maria rescue efforts debuted on the agency’s YouTube and Facebook sites Dec. 20.
From August through October, DLA Energy Americas and TFA rapidly responded to not one, but three major hurricanes that struck within a 30 day time span.
The first storm, Category 4 Hurricane Harvey, hit Texas with 130 mph winds on Aug. 25.
Sixteen days later, Category 4 Hurricane Irma hit Florida with 185 mph winds.
Ten days after Irma, Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and the Caribbean with 175 mph winds.
Deploying with only 13 to 18 people, DLA Energy TFA planned, coordinated and executed more than 800 Federal Emergency Management Agency priority fuel missions providing nearly two million gallons of fuel to support response and recovery efforts in the wake of the three consecutive storms.
Although each storm challenged response efforts in unique and substantial ways, Hurricane Maria posed a particular challenge when trying to get fuel to the Caribbean islands.
Even with ongoing relief efforts across Texas and Florida, DLA Energy and TFA developed a concept of operation well ahead of Maria and prepared to move fuel to Puerto Rico and other surrounding areas via barge as soon as ports were reopened.
Early in October, 120 Energy-contracted fuel trucks carrying 433,000 gallons of fuel arrived at the Port of San Juan and TFA immediately began supplying much-needed fuel to critical locations including hospitals, elderly homes, orphanages, schools and shelters as well as to federal responders. Realizing local fuel vendors could not support the citizen’s needs, TFA also set up 10 regional staging areas to distribute gasoline and propane throughout Puerto Rico.
For TFA Commander Army Lt. Col. Josielyn Carrasquillo response efforts in Puerto Rico were especially personal. She was born in Carolinas, Puerto Rico, and most of her immediate family still lives on the island.
“As I arrived to the island, I was not prepared to see the devastation the hurricane left,” she said. “I could not contain my tears, and I could not help but wonder how my family was doing.”
Carrasquillo had one evening to find her family before beginning relief efforts.
“I found a way to contact my brother,” she said. “He picked me up and we set out to visit my family in Canovanas. After an hour and 15 minutes of traveling, which normally takes 35 minutes, I arrived at my Mom’s house.”
It was full of about a dozen of her family members, Carrasquillo said.
“We cried, but I heard my Mom say, ‘We are warriors, and we will never quit. Puerto Rico will come back stronger than before.’”
Carrasquillo was able to see her family a few more times during the relief efforts. Her mom cooked for the TFA team and made sure they had a nice family Thanksgiving meal.
Despite the tragic circumstances, Carrasquillo was proud to return to her island and help it recover.
“I am so blessed to be born and raised in Puerto Rico, but more than that I am blessed to have the family that I have,” she said. “I am the leader that I am today thanks to them.”