Troopers travel to Puerto Rico to help in storm’s aftermath

MILLBROOK — Heroes are heroes, no matter their location, and that designation now belongs to 50 New York State Troopers who dropped everything on Saturday, Sept. 24, to travel on a donated JetBlue flight from JFK airport to Puerto Rico to assist residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.

According to Troop K Public Information Officer A.J. Hicks of the Salt Point Barracks, once there, Troopers were immediately sworn in as Puerto Rican police officers so that they could assist the local forces with the overwhelming needs brought on by lack of even the basic essentials such as food, water and electricity.

In addition to delivering life-saving humanitarian relief to those in need, Hicks said the officers began assisting in managing increased “crimes of opportunity that occur post disaster... in commercial businesses and homes that are unoccupied or damaged and so are easily accessed.”

When responding on the devastated island, just as when answering a call close to home, Hicks said  Troopers always go in “with a willingness to help and serve and do the best they can with the tools at hand.”

The current response is typical of Troopers with most of those who go on special missions -— volunteering, although some are assigned because they have specific skills, such as the ability to speak Spanish.

He suggested that it might seem to make sense to draw those recruits from New York City with Troopers who might have a better grasp of the language and its colloquialisms, but he emphasized no one area can be tapped and leave coverage in short supply. Flexiblity and creativity on the part of Troopers and schedulers are critical.

Hicks said that because burn-out can become dangerous, the island assignments might be limited to one or two weeks, depending on airport availability, before Troopers are rotated.

Recognizing that burn-out can happen on the home front as well, Hicks emphasized, “We of the State Police acknowledge family support and the sacrifices that our families also make in supporting us to make sure that we can serve the people of New York and beyond.”

Troop K Trooper Howard Dorner’s bride was one of those once left behind. A third year officer and newly married with a two-week-old home,  he volunteered for what became a life changing experience, spending two 15 day tours in the heart of Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 Ninth Ward destruction.

Expecting to find anti-police views in that dangerous area, Dorner said he was amazed at the reception the Troopers received as residents came to appreciate their contributions, even welcoming them into their homes, preparing meals and crying while expressing their thanks.

Dorner said he changed too, increasing in understanding and empathy.

And yes, he would do it again.

Fifty members of the New York State Troopers joined 75 Troopers from New Jersey at JFK Airport for a Sept. 24 flight to Puerto Rico to aid police after Hurricane Fiona. Photo submitted

Photo submitted

Fifty members of the New York State Troopers joined 75 Troopers from New Jersey at JFK Airport for a Sept. 24 flight to Puerto Rico to aid police after Hurricane Fiona. Photo submitted

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