MANSFIELD -- More than two dozen Ohio Air National Guard members, including some based in Mansfield, will be sent to Puerto Rico to provide emergency aide after recent powerful earthquakes caused massive destruction and widespread power outages.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a proclamation Thursday authorizing specified members of the Ohio National Guard to provide emergency aid to the commonwealth of 3.4 million residents, more than 1,000 miles off the coast of Florida.
The Ohio Air National Guard 200th RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer) Squadron will support earthquake relief efforts by establishing two Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems.
The systems are deployable kits capable of providing basic housing and life support facilities, such as tents, showers, and latrines, for up to 150 military personnel responding to the disaster.
The 200th is based in Port Clinton, though it has a detachment at Mansfield Lahm Aiport, home of the 179th Airlift Wing.
A spokesman in the Ohio Adjutant General's office said 26 members will be deployed, using a mix of airmen from both sites.
Beginning on Dec. 28, the U.S. territory experienced hundreds of earthquakes, culminating in a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 7 and multiple aftershocks, near Guanica on the island’s southwestern coast.
Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency due to the widespread damage and utility disruption.
"I have authorized the mobilization of the Ohio National Guard to provide emergency assistance until basic services in the impacted areas are restored," DeWine said. "I have instructed Ohio's Adjutant General to take whatever actions are necessary to assist local authorities to protect the lives, safety, health, and property of citizens affected by these devastating earthquakes."
Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., the Ohio adjutant general, said disaster relief missions and supporting the homeland are primary missions for the National Guard.
“Our Ohio Air National Guard Airmen at the 200th RED HORSE Squadron are ready and anxious to support earthquake relief efforts in Puerto Rico. This is what we do,” Harris said.
The 200th RED HORSE Squadron is equipped to provide engineering, construction, and logistics capabilities worldwide on short notice.
The unit also responded to assist in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria knocked out power to the island in 2017.
“Being able to support another state for domestic response is exciting,” said Col. Michael Hrynciw, commander of the 200th RED HORSE Squadron. “We train for this all the time in support of our friends and neighbors. The Ohio National Guard leads the way in helping others.”
DeWine’s proclamation allows the Ohio National Guard unit to remain on active duty until the disaster recovery assistance is complete and an emergency no longer exists.
The Ohio National Guard is deploying the equipment and personnel as part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which allows states to send personnel, equipment, and commodities to assist with response and recovery efforts in other states or territories.