About 60 members of the Kansas Army National Guard's 242nd Engineer Company, based in Augusta, along with soldiers from other units, flew out of Kansas City International Airport Tuesday morning, headed for Puerto Rico where they will help repair damage from Hurricane Maria.
The soldiers, who are expected to be on the island for 30 days, are relieving National Guard units from other states, according to a Kansas National Guard press release.
“The damage and the suffering in Puerto Rico is extensive; it is going to take years to fully recover,” Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement. “I am proud of our Kansas National Guard troops as they take part in the recovery efforts and put boots on the ground right where they are needed. God bless them and we look forward to their safe return.”
Hurricane Maria struck the island territory on Sept. 20, devastating most property and wiping out an electrical grid serving the island's 3.5 million people. As of Monday, it was reported that more than half of the island was still without power.
"This is just the type of assistance mission our Soldiers train for and they are ready and eager to help the citizens of Puerto Rico,” Lt. Col. David Burk, commander of the 891st Engineer Battalion, said in a statement.
The mission was made at the request of Puerto Rico. It was arranged by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a multistate mutual aid agreement that facilitates interstate assistance in response and recovery operations during a disaster.
Kansas Guardsmen have deployed to other states under the EMAC agreement to battle forest fires, aid in recovery after hurricanes and for other disasters, the National Guard said.