KAHULUI, Hawaii — Soldiers from the 9th Mission Support Command have positioned themselves to provide vital assistance and relief to those affected by the devastating Maui wildfires on Aug 8, 2023.
Stationed at the Kaoru Moto U.S. Army Reserve Center, located in Wailuku, Maui Soldiers from various units within the 9th MSC have combined efforts with the 871st Engineer Vertical Construction Company (EVCC) as part of Task Force Pueo, stepping in to aid their fellow Soldiers and civilians impacted by the wildfires.
The purpose of Task Force Pueo is to support 9th MSC Soldiers local to Maui, remain postured to coordinate recovery efforts as needed and enable 871st EVCC Soldiers to support Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Forward Staging Area and Incident Support Base operations. The Reserve center is one of the designated FEMA staging sites on the island of Maui.
Within the first 72 hours of the disaster, 14 dedicated soldiers from the 871st EVCC sprang into action, swiftly converting the Reserve center into an emergency shelter for displaced reserve soldiers and civilians, utilizing the assembly hall to allow those affected to shelter in place. “I wasn’t going to tell people to leave.” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Ruvalcaba, the Facility Coordinator for the 871st EVCC.
Ruvalcaba, who had served for two years with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, disclosed that upon recognizing the gravity of the wildfires and the hazards confronting his troops, he initiated a formal request to open the Reserve center through his chain of command to Brig. Gen. Mark W. Siekman. Gen. Siekman serves as the Commanding General of the 9th Mission Support Command, which has its headquarters at Fort Shafter in Hawaii.
"About 24 people showed up. Mainly service members and family members that were here. Five of my Soldiers lost their homes on the West side and they were able to stay here [at the reserve center]. "Ruvalcaba, who had been slated to move to New Hampshire just four days before the fires erupted, postponed his relocation to ensure the facility remained open and operational. He explained, "It's my Soldiers here at this location that were affected. I couldn't see myself leaving."
The 871st EVCC involvement in the recovery mission has been in a support role for FEMA, serving as a secure storage facility for over 40 palettes of equipment arriving from three different states. This equipment encompassed generators, medical supplies, and specialized search and rescue gear crucial to the ongoing Maui recovery efforts.
As the Maui community grapples with the aftermath of the wildfires, these soldiers stand as steadfast pillars of support.
"The 871st EVCC is composed of electricians, carpenters, masons, heavy equipment operators, plumbers, overall construction engineers," explained Capt. Moskowitz. Should FEMA call for more support, units like the 871st from the 9th MSC are ready to assist future recovery efforts. "We are remaining postured to help in any capacity we can," Moskowitz affirmed.
This is especially pertinent because disasters like the Maui fire are local to 9th MSC soldiers and affect their families, friends and communities. This spurs their commitment to see recovery efforts through whatever disaster may come. Be it typhoon, volcanic eruption, or wildfire, whether it be in Saipan, Guam or Maui, the Army Reserve of the Pacific is ready to mobilize rapidly to assist those who live in our backyard.