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NEWS | Nov. 14, 2017

School's former students distribute food, water in Puerto Rico

By Maj. Ruth Castro 1st Mission Support Command

The vast majority of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to Puerto Rico are the sons and daughters of the island. They, along with everyone else needing help after hurricane Maria, suffered much after the catastrophic storm ravaged through in the early morning hours of Sept. 20.

After 50 days without power or water, communities welcome any help with open arms and a warm smile. For Rita Jusino del Pozo, director of Jaime A. Collazo del Rio High School in Morovis, Puerto Rico, things are no different. Excitement and disbelief flooded her face as she saw vehicles from the U.S. Army Reserve approach her school with pallets of water and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) on Nov. 7.

“I am so excited and appreciative, I wasn’t expecting so much,” said Jusino. “I expected the presence of the U.S. Army Reserve and maybe one vehicle, but I didn’t expect your support to be so great.”

Jusino was exceptionally proud of two Soldiers that drove the vehicles to her school as they are former students of hers. Twins Bryant Omar and Bryant Yohel Ramos are both specialists assigned to the 390th Transportation Company Seaport Operations in Ceiba, Puerto Rico.

“It feels great to be here helping my community,” said Yohel. “I graduated in 2012 and to come back; it was like when I was in school. I get the same satisfaction whether it is my home town or any other town. All of Puerto Rico is my home.”

Yohel mentioned that Jusino had contacted him about possibly helping with taking supplies to the school for the community members. After working with his chain of command, they were able to make the request a reality.

Two weeks ago the director called me if it would be possible to bring some supplies to the school. Working through command, we were able to make it happen. Helping your community during these times of necessity brings an additional sense of pride to the twins.

“I’m proud of what we are doing,” said Omar. “We are helping other people. I don’t have words to explain it, but it’s awesome seeing the people that you grew up with. They need help, and we are here to help. They are proud of us and are very thankful, and we are proud to be here.”

Cpt. Angel Morales, the commander of the 390th, described how proud he was of his Soldiers and the opportunity to assist after Hurricane Maria hit the island. “I am very proud because I am a Puerto Rican Soldier and right now I’m in this position where the Army Reserve is activated through DSCA (Defense Support of Civil Authorities) operations after Hurricane Maria.”

“I am very proud to help my island and people. When we go outside of Puerto Rico, we help other countries, but we are Puerto Ricans helping our same communities.”

Morales described how beneficial this opportunity has been for his unit.

“My Soldier is getting realistic training opportunities in a real-world environment and get to see the full spectrum of how things operate. We are appreciative to have been giving this opportunity and very proud to be a part of helping Puerto Rico rise again and support the civilian side.”
Former teachers of Yohel and Omar praised their character and did not seem at all surprised that they both decided to join the Army Reserve after graduating high school.

“I was their physics and science teacher during their senior year,” said Ms. Yessica Colon Rodriguez. “I was not surprised to learn that they both joined the Army Reserve. They have the discipline and are very responsible and know how close they are; it wasn’t surprising at all.”

“It is a very emotional to see how hard the Army Reserve is working for the well-being of humanity because you are everywhere,” she continued.

“Today you are here with us, but it is not only here that the Army Reserve is working hard. This is a very emotional and gratifying moment. I don’t have many words to describe how great it is to see them here and know how they are helping the community.”

“Thank you because, in all honesty, the needs of the people are great,” said Rodriguez. “If it weren't for the U.S. Army's role in this, the need would be much more significant. Help would take much longer to arrive.
Jaime A. Collazo del Rio High School is the largest school in the district.

“We have a community of 740 parents,” said Jusino. “We have teachers and students that have lost their homes because of the hurricane. The school remains closed due to structural damages, but we will get there.”

“I know you are courageous men and women. You are brave and caring, and that is what you are demonstrating here today,” concluded Jusino.