JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
In the midst of a flurry of activity to ready Hurricane Maria relief supplies for air transport at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Support Base at JBSA-Lackland Kelly Field on Sept. 22, one Airman’s mind drifted between task and family, wrestling with service before self.
2nd Lt. Alberto, a remotely-piloted aircraft pilot candidate currently assigned to the 12th Training Squadron at JBSA-Randolph, had not heard from his wife’s family in Puerto Rico for over 72 hours and was unsure how they were doing or if they were even safe.
“It was tough staying focused on the task at hand and not knowing if our family was safe,” Alberto said. “We had no communication with them for over three days…it is a very helpless feeling.”
Finally, while strapping down supplies with cargo nets, Alberto heard the chime and saw the text from his wife he had been waiting for: everyone was safe.
“Such a relief,” the pilot-candidate said.
Alberto, born in Caguas, Puerto Rico and who grew up the son of a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, was struggling with the devastation caused by the storm.
“Seeing five feet of water rushing through the streets and homes, it’s really hard to process,” he said.
Having the opportunity to be out in the field and help prepare relief supplies to go to Puerto Rico was a great feeling for the Airman.
“Every bit helps,” Alberto said. “Although I can’t go home and my mission is here, I know I’m helping my family and that means the world to me.”
The JBSA-Lackland Kelly ISB, the third such support hub hosted by JBSA and the 502nd ABW over the last month, will help posture relief supplies for transport to areas devastated by the storm, primarily in the Caribbean.
Alberto was at the ISB because the 12th Flying Training Wing volunteered to assist FEMA and the 502nd Air Base Wing with ISB operations utilizing approximately 25 students awaiting training.
“This is a great opportunity for our students who will be training to become RPA pilots to learn how the support community directly impacts the mission,” said Lt. Col. Brian McKay, 12th Training Squadron commander. “Being out in real-world operations where the rubber meets the road, you can’t pass up those chances.”
(Editor's note: In some instances, only first names were given due to operational security reasons.)