By Hollie McKay
Published April 24, 2019
While the issue of federal funding for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico continues to remain a point of contention in Washington, the U.S. military is endeavoring to play a quieter role away from the political posturing.
From April 25 through to May 8, the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) will partner with Puerto Rico’s Government Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration for a “Healing Wave of Hope” mission, aimed at providing locals with health care in Ponce, Jayuya, Lares, Maricao, Mayaguez and Yauco in addition to training local providers.
“The IRT missions allow our force to have hands-on, real-world training to improve readiness and survivability in contingency environments. It is also an opportunity to strengthen and build new partnerships with different populations, often in remote areas,” LTC Carlos M. Cuebas, Chief Public Affairs for the U.S. Army Reserve Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico, told Fox News. “IRT is a collaborative program that that leverages military contributions and community resources to multiply value and cost savings for participants.”
Some of the services to be provided are physical exams, sports physicals, blood pressure/disease screenings, dental exams, extractions, and fillings, and vision screenings.
The IRT program, which was first conceived in 1992 as a means of providing “realistic training in a joint environment in order to prepare U.S. military members to perform similar duties during a crisis at home or abroad,” is expected to tend to undertake more than 9,000 medical procedures throughout the two-week deployment.
And although it is not directly linked to hurricane relief, some 19 months after Hurricane Maria ripped through and claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, U.S. military brass are hopeful that the training and treatment will provide some reprieve and ensure that Puerto Rico is better equipped to deal with any future calamities that may strike.
“IRT provides key services with lasting benefits for our communities,” Cuebas added.