PUERTO NUEVO, Puerto Rico –
Maj. Gen. William Shane Lee, the Commander of the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), awarded 37 Soldiers from the 49th Multifunctional Medical Battalion the Humanitarian Service Medal on Saturday.
Lee recognized the Soldiers for their participation in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support throughout Puerto Rico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
“It’s one thing to support a hurricane, it’s another thing to be in a hurricane and support a hurricane. I’ve been a “victim” of a hurricane before in Hurricane Ivan, and quite frankly the only thing I could think about after Ivan was taking care of my family, I can’t imagine trying to do that and a military mission at the same time, so it was twice the sacrifice twice the valor,” said Lee as he addressed the unit in the assembly hall.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria, a category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, uprooted trees, ripped roofs off homes, caused a 100 percent power outage across Puerto Rico and displaced countless residents. The storm impacted hospitals and disrupted medical treatment facilities leading to the formation of Task Force 49 Medical, an amalgam of US Army Reserve and active duty units designed to provide role 1 (first aid, triage, treatment, and evacuation) and role 2 (basic primary care) medical care. Most of the unit consisted of Soldiers who lived and had family and friends in Puerto Rico. TF 49 MED’s primary objective was to save lives and mitigate suffering in the aftermath of the great storm.
TF 49 MED rose to the occasion by providing immediate invaluable medical and humanitarian assistance. The task force treated over 12,800 patients, repaired and serviced 570 generators, evacuated over 1,000 people to receive lifesaving and sustaining treatment, and worked to improve the quality of water and mosquito prevention on the island all within a 30-day window following the storm.
Reflecting on his Soldiers’ performance following Hurricane Maria, TF 49 MED’s Commander, Lt. Col. RC Chao, said, “Our Soldiers represent the best of us and they are the face of America’s Reserve.”