Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order Thursday to send 150 engineer soldiers with the S.C. National Guard to assist in recovery efforts following the widespread destruction wreaked by Hurricane Maria.
The engineers are part of a multi-state Engineer Task Force comprised of a total of 750 soldiers from the North Carolina, Louisiana and New York Army National Guards, according to a press release from the governor's office. They will assist in clearing roads and reaching areas cut off from the storm, as well as clearing debris and getting infrastructure restored.
Soldiers are currently preparing for the deployment and are expected to be airborne to Puerto Rico at some point this weekend, SCNG officials said.
"It is an inspiration to see South Carolinians answer the call of duty, without hesitation, to help our neighbors in need," McMaster said in a statement. "The people of Puerto Rico have had our thoughts and prayers throughout this devastating and trying time, and now they will have the dedicated men and women of South Carolina's Army National Guard working side-by-side with them to restore their home and get them back on their feet."
The South Carolina soldiers are assigned to the 122nd Engineer Battalion headquartered in Edgefield and the 178th Engineer Battalion headquartered in Rock Hill.
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds. The storm caused widespread devastation and left the American territory of 3.4 million Americans in the dark.
The National Disaster Medical System and Federal Coordination Center have been activated in Columbia and have received four patients who were evacuated from medical facilities in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.
"I am always so proud of our South Carolina soldiers who are ready at a moment's notice to help our fellow neighbors in need, even hundreds or a thousand miles away," U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the adjutant general for South Carolina, said.