FORT BLISS, TX, UNITED STATES, –
The 544th Military Police Company, Puerto Rican Army National Guard, has taken on missions in Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, for several years, and after completing training with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security here, a platoon-sized element from the company continued the tradition and departed from the Silas L. Copeland Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group for a nine-month deployment July 11.
Soldiers of the 544th MP Co. will be in charge of the physical security and force protection of the air base and aid in the humanitarian and antiterrorist efforts of Joint Task force-Bravo using the training they received in Puerto Rico and here, which reinforced their knowledge in military police functions and law enforcement operations.
“We’ve been doing this mission for years,” said 1st Sgt. Vivian Cintron De Jesus, first sergeant, 544 MP Co. “It’s really important and helps all of South America.”
All are excited to represent the Puerto Rico Army National Guard, and for the majority of the group, this has been their first time off the island. The ones who have been on this mission before are looking forward to returning.
“The Soldiers are highly motivated and are looking forward to getting there. We have a group of young personnel that have never been on a mission before,” Cintron said. “This is a peaceful mission that impacts a lot of poor people in Honduras that need medical assistance and other help.”
“It’s a different (mobilization), it’s not like Afghanistan or Iraq,” said 1st Lt. Juan Rodriguez, commander, 544th MP Co. “We do more humanitarian service and have a foster house that we provide for.”
The foster home is a local organization called “Casa Ayuda,” (roughly translating to a house that helps), which houses children with special needs. Along with the Joint Security Forces, members of the 544th MP Co. have spent their free time assisting the children by donating supplies or helping them in school.
Working alongside other Soldiers, Airmen and Marines, the 544th MP Co. humanitarian deeds include building schools, houses and other construction projects, as well as travelling to remote villages to provide medical support and needed supplies.
As bilingual Soldiers, their presence is invaluable when it comes to bridging the language barrier between the local populace, military and civilian personnel. It is especially helpful when it comes to escorting medical personnel or serving as gate guards.
“Spanish is important because we have to work hand in hand with Honduras police and officers,” Rodriguez said.
Making a positive impact on the area with each deployment, the 544th MP Co. strives to continue their role in the community while at the same time ensuring the Soldiers’ safety and well-being.
“We’re going to take care of the Soldiers, they don’t have to worry because we’re going to be with them always,” Rodriguez said. “They are well trained, well prepared and motivated excellent Soldiers.”