Fort Stewart soldiers deploying to Puerto Rico to assist with hurricane recovery

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Over a dozen area soldiers will deploy to Puerto Rico Tuesday morning to help with Hurricane Maria response operations.

The soldiers are from Fort Stewart's 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion. Military officials tell us 16 to 20 soldiers will be deploying on this mission. The group is going to Fort Buchanan to assist with military and government operations. Their orders include establishing a radio signal and other communication for military and FEMA relief efforts.

Fort Buchanan is a United States Army installation in Puerto Rico. It is located in the metropolitan area of the capital, San Juan.

This is not a new type of mission for the group. More recently, elements of this same unit also deployed to Houston, Texas, to assist with similar operations following Hurricane Harvey.

"Anytime there is a catastrophic event, in any nature really, the 63rd stands ready to deploy support to whoever is in need," said LTC Indria Rice Donegan, 63rd ESB Commander.

For one soldier, it's a mission that literally hits home.

"When they said 'we have the mission going to Puerto Rico,' I was the first one to go," said Sgt. Alfonso Lange, 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion.

That's because Sgt. Lange is from Puerto Rico. Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island, he hasn't heard from any of his family still living there.

"I've been looking on Facebook like crazy, sending a lot of messages, trying to get contact, but at this time I feel so sad," Lange said. "I don't have any contact with my grandmother, my father, my sister, my mom. I don't have any kind of communication right now. I have a mission and I have to complete that mission. If we have time available, yes, I'm going to see my family, but now, it's mission first. I am an American soldier."

Since Maria wiped out all the power on the island, a tough task lies ahead for these brave soldiers.

"We're excited to do the job. The difficulties are always there. We're excited to put it to good use," he said.

The soldiers will make communication possible for military personnel and FEMA workers through satellite-based equipment, such as phone service and internet for over 500 subscribers.

"Just hang tight, we're coming."

Two C-17 Globemasters arrived at HAAF overnight to start loading equipment. One of the aircraft's left earlier Tuesday morning.

The deploying soldiers from Fort Stewart will be bused to Hunter Army Airfield where they will depart for Puerto Rico around 9 p.m. Tuesday night.

"We're doing it first to take care of the needs and ease the suffering of our very own fellow American citizens."

At this time, it is not known exactly how long the unit will be deployed.

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