SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Many of the Soldiers of the Ohio National Guard's 285th Medical Company (Area Support) currently serving in Puerto Rico have been deployed to places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo.
A few have also served on previous natural disaster missions. Soldiers who have served on missions similar to the current one in Puerto Rico have provided invaluable experience to the team of 285th ASMC medical professionals as they have traveled around the island providing a variety of care to residents.
Two of those Soldiers are Sgt. Michael Mains and Maj. Donald McHone.
Within 48 hours of the earthquake hitting Haiti in 2010, Mains was on ground with the 85th Helicopter Squadron. 'I heard Haiti was bad,' Mains said, 'but until I got there and saw it, I didn't know how bad it was. It was complete and total devastation.' His mission was search and rescue. Unfortunately, after the first two weeks, the mission mostly entailed recovering bodies.
In Puerto Rico, Mains is serving as a behavioral health specialist. He said that his time in Haiti has given him a perspective that helps him talk to Puerto Ricans during a time when many of them are coping with great loss.
In 2005, within a week of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast, McHone was in Mississippi with the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry helping with recovery efforts. He supported the 1-148th as a medic, caring almost exclusively for Soldiers. In Puerto Rico, he is serving as a nurse, caring nearly exclusively for civilians. 'In Katrina, as a corporal, I was told where to go and what to do,' McHone said. 'For this mission in Puerto Rico, because of my rank and my experience in Katrina, I can provide help on a broader operational scale.'
Mains and McHone compared the recovery efforts of their natural disaster missions.
'The devastation in Puerto Rico is of a similar level to what it was in Katrina,' McHone said. 'Because of being surrounded by water, the logistics are much more difficult in Puerto Rico. But, I hope the citizens of Puerto Rico feel like they are supported and they don't have to deal with this on their own.'
Mains said he believes that Puerto Rico will recover better than Haiti. 'When I left Haiti, I thought it would take that country years to recover,' Mains said. 'I believe Puerto Rico will recover much more quickly and will probably be even better than before.'