Through a dog's eyes: Disaster recovery in the face of Hurricane Maria

By Brego Schultz | 1st Mission Support Command | Oct. 11, 2018

FORT BUCHANNAN, Puerto Rico —

As a recent Texas transplant, you’d think the biggest challenge I’d face in my move to Puerto Rico would be learning a new language. Instead, after three hurricanes in less than a month, I came away with a new appreciation for Family, community and hard work. The best part is I made friends—and a difference—helping to deliver water, fuel, and food all across the island.

I’m Brego and I’m a Belgian Malinois. I’m five years old and I had special training so I get to wear a cool camouflage vest, which now has a lot of Army patches on it. Anyway, it took us a few days to get to Fort Buchannan—Hurricane Harvey really hit Houston hard. Some good news was that Army Reserve Soldiers got to help out with the recovery and they rescued hundreds of people there, including (I’m happy to report) 170 pets and animals. We’d barely unpacked when Hurricane Irma hit. That wasn’t too bad, but I started to get anxious two weeks later when Hurricane Maria showed up—trees fell down, the power went out and almost everyone lost access to clean water.

Mom—Brig. Gen. Dustin “Ana” Shultz—went straight to work, checking on the troops and coordinating with the government to support the community – what a way to meet everyone! Dad says she has “mission control” here—she’s the commander of U.S. Army Reserve’s 1st Mission Support Command, the largest federal Army Command in the Caribbean, and has more than 5,000 Soldiers all across Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands too. It's a big responsibility, but we were all looking forward to getting to know the Soldiers and everyone in the community.

Dad was transitioning too, he used to be a police officer, and then an assistant pastor, and then a full-time stay-at-home parent/home school teacher, but now he’s a Senior Volunteer Advisor, which means he gets to meet with and find ways to help Army Reserve Families. His name is David, and he’s my hero.

At first, Dad volunteered to make meals at the community center while Mom was at work, it was the only place for food, so I had to stay in my crate. It was pretty dark in there with the windows covered up—I don’t like to complain, but REALLY hate being alone. Then he found out they needed drivers to deliver generators around base and keeping them fueled. And guess what?! He needed a co-pilot!

There was so much to do. We and some other spouses delivered fuel around Fort Buchannan with two pickup trucks. We made the rounds every day. Some nice families started waiting outside to say hello to me—that was the best part of my day! Dad said we helped around 70 families on Fort Buchannan. My job was to be available for hugs, and Dad and Mom both said I was really good at my job.

When we heard about some people in the community who needed help too, FEMA gave us food and water to deliver to residents in remote areas. The roads were pretty bad so Mom had some of her engineer Soldiers help clear the roads—more friends for me—and we followed. We got to deliver food and water to more than 200 families!

It’s been months now, and things are just starting to get back to normal. There’s a long way to go, but if I learned anything, it’s that there are a lot of good people out there. For me, I have a new pack: new Soldiers new friends and a new community—things are really looking up.

Volunteers Making a Difference:

192 PALLETS: volunteers assisted in the delivery of relief supplies—including food, water, portable generators

2 MILLION: pounds of food and water delivered, roofs tarped and trees and debris cleared — volunteers informally coordinated island-wide relief aid through Calvary Chapel PR, and churches stateside with the aid of the PR National Guard’s Community Outreach Program.

FORT BUCHANNAN MEDICAL SUPPORT: safety and maintenance checks to identify residents in need of medical assistance; delivered portable A/C units to residents with respiratory conditions.

12,000 MILITARY PERSONNEL: hosted and assisted the setup of four USO expeditionary centers across the island to provide relief for temporarily assigned military personnel

4 in 5 DAYS: A record for setting up USO expeditionary centers.