Soldiers return from humanitarian relief efforts

Puerto Rico National Guard Citizen-Soldiers along with the South Dakota National Guard distribute potable water to residents of Naranjito, Oct. 11. The National Guard team work with two water tanks “Hippos” with a capacity of 2,000 gallons of potable water. (PRNG photos by: Sgt. Alexis Vélez/Released-PAO)

WATERTOWN, S.D. (KEVN) - After more than six weeks in Puerto Rico, members of the South Dakota Army National Guard have returned to the states. Four members of the 139th Brigade Support Battalion were deployed on Oct. 8 to assist in disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Maria.

“Knowing that we are needed, beyond a home state crisis or a military conflict, was the most significant thing about this operation to me as a soldier in the South Dakota National Guard,” said Sgt. 1st Class Roger Mitchell.

The soldiers distributed over 420,000 gallons of water to residents. In addition to handing out water, they assisted in setting up two water purification sites and distribution sites. The addition of these sites allowed for 920,000 gallons of water to be distributed.

Spc. Jorges Morales said that it was an honor to help. Morales is originally from Puerto Rico but had not been back since 2014.

“Being part of the National Guard was significant in this mission because I could use my training and my military skills to help,” said Spc. Jorges Morales. “My greatest pride in this experience was being able to help my people in such a difficult situation.”

The four returned on Nov. 19.