185th Refueling Wing KC-135

A member of the 185th Air Refueling Wing works on a KC-135 tanker at the Sioux City base in an August 2016 photo. Eight Iowa Air National Guard Security Force personnel departed Sioux City in a KC-135 tanker Monday morning to offer assistance in Puerto Rico. Sixteen security force personnel from the 132nd Wing, Iowa National Guard based in Des Moines also departed Monday morning.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | Eight members of the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard left Monday for Puerto Rico to provide security for relief workers assisting victims of Hurricane Maria.

The Security Forces personnel from the base in Sioux City will deploy with 16 members of the 132nd Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard base in Des Moines.

Col. Greg Hapgood said the guardsmen were transported on a KC-135 Stratotanker Monday from Sioux City to Des Moines. Because there's no power for runway lights in Puerto Rico, the airmen remained in Iowa on Monday night before heading to the U.S. territory on Tuesday morning.

Hapgood says the Air Guardsmen will remain in Puerto Rico for an indeterminate period, supplying supplemental security to civilian law enforcement personnel and relief efforts there.

Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, left at least 15,000 residents in temporary shelters, and much of the island without fresh water, electricity or telephone service. Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress said Sunday the destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage.

Col. Jim Walker said this is the fourth time in recent history that 185th Security Forces has aided victims during disasters under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement that offers assistance to all U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia.

"In 2005, we offered assistance following Hurricane Katrina," Walker said at an impromptu news conference Monday at the Sioux City base. "We also offered assistance following flooding in eastern Iowa in 2008, as well as when the Missouri River flooded in 2011."

Col. Stephanie Samenus said the 185th received a request to assist in Puerto Rico on Sept. 23.

"This all came together in less than 48 hours," Samenus said. "We didn't have any problem getting volunteers willing to help out. "This is the reason many of us joined the Iowa Air National Guard in the first place," she added. "We want to provide a service to those people in a time of crisis."

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