RENO – A total of 12 Nevada Guard soldiers and airmen departed Nevada this morning aboard a Nevada Air Guard C-130 cargo plane and are en route to Puerto Rico to assist with the disaster relief after Hurricane Maria struck the territory last week.
The six soldiers who departed are communications specialists who will operate a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability package. The six airmen are flight crewmen who will operate and maintain the aircraft on the 7,000-mile round trip.
Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Seagraves of Joint Force Headquarters in Carson City and Sgt. 1st Class Travis Martinelli of the 421st Regional Training Institute in Reno are two of the soldiers set to work in Puerto Rico for about 30 days.
Seagraves said a JISCC is a mobile satellite system that can be quickly transported to any location and supplement phone, radio and internet communications.
“Via satellite, we will have internet to access both secure military networks as well as the unsecured civilian internet,” Martinelli said. He said the system can supply Wi-Fi to the internet, stream live videos from aircraft and even connect cellphones directly to radio frequencies commonly used by first responders.
The JISCC system was introduced nationwide after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; all FEMA regions have access to JISCC equipment that’s maintained and operated by National Guard units.
“We have teams trained specifically for these systems that are ready to deploy at any moment when there is a disaster,” Martinelli said.
“We can help another state or territory by dropping in the equipment where ever it’s needed via air transport and then set up a mobile communications center,” Seagraves said. “A JISCC is self-sufficient because it runs on generators. As long as we have fuel, we can set them up anywhere.”
Martinelli said the system can assist both civilian authorities as well as civilians. Although the priority is to assist Puerto Rican first responders, they may be able to help civilians call their relatives to finally tell them their welfare status.
“This is what we signed up for — to be able to volunteer and help people,” Martinelli said. “Every single person on this team volunteered to go on this mission. It’s going to be a great opportunity to help people.”