By Capt. J. Scott Detwiler
172nd Public Public Affairs Detachment
Winding their way up steep mountain roads, no more than 12 feet wide, the 268th Transportation Company, 393rd Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, 166th Regional Support Group, 1st Mission Support Command out of Ft. Buchanan, Puerto Rico delivers cases of water and food to the 5,000 residents of Jayuya. Many residents are surviving without electricity for more than six weeks following Hurricane Irma, so the mission of the 268th TC is as much community relations as it is commodity distribution.
For 1st Lt. Juan Carlos Ortiz, commander, 268th TC, this work is personal. Born and raised outside of Ponce, he normally works for the local government processing farm loans.
However, since Hurricane Maria devastated the region, he and his soldiers are providing the most basic and tangible of resources: food, water and hope.
“The people are grateful for what we are doing," said Oritz. "You can see the smiles and tears on their faces when we bring them water.
Ortiz recalled a recent mission in which, “We brought water to this family who had lost everything. Their children were naked, had no clothes – nothing. We went back to the village and bought some clothes for the children. When we brought them back the father was so grateful he couldn’t speak through his tears.”
Ortiz admitted that he and his soldiers purchased the clothes for this family out of their own generosity. This same compassion compels them into the 3,500 foot mountains, some of the highest in Puerto Rico, that surround the center of Jayuya so they can accomplish their mission.
“When the roads become too steep or narrow for our vehicles, we load up our ruck sacks and walk,” said Ortiz. “These people, they need it.”