TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Some New Jersey State troopers are in Puerto Rico assisting in recovery efforts. The island is struggling to recover from a series of recent earthquakes.
When you think of the state police, most picture troopers patrolling the highways. But New Jersey State Police is one of the United States’ most sought-after agencies for disaster response.
“These refugees that are in the camps, they have been here quite some times since the earthquake hit,” New Jersey State Police Maj. James Ryan said.
New Jersey State troopers are on a mission far from home.
For the past two weeks, 57 troopers have been providing security and humanitarian aid to the people of Puerto Rico whose lives are devastated by a month of powerful earthquakes.
“We’ve experienced numerous aftershocks,” Ryan said. “It’s a little unnerving. It’s something definitely that we’re not used to back up in New Jersey, but we’ve grown accustomed to it.”
State police provided CBS3 with exclusive access to its team in Puerto Rico.
They start each day around 5 a.m. and fan out across five large tent cities, where thousands of displaced people wait to rebuild and repair their homes.
“They’re emotional,” Ryan said. “I just left a camp about an hour ago and all the little kids were out there running around and they know the troopers’ names and the troopers know their names. Still, performing law enforcement mission, of course, but that humanitarian effort has been tremendous.”
Many of the troopers who volunteered on the mission speak Spanish and also went to Puerto Rico two years ago to help after Hurricane Maria.
New Jersey State Police has advanced response certifications and a stream-lined mobilization structure that makes them one of the country’s most sought-after state agencies when there are natural disasters.
“We’ve had state police members in Hawaii for volcanoes, California for wildfires, Houston after [Hurricane] Harvey,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said.
Callahan says compassion is one of the key characteristics of his members.
“We’re Sunday school teachers. We’re little league coaches. We’re mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters,” Callahan said. “And regardless of what color our uniform is or what patch is on our sleeve, we’re all really brothers and sisters and we need to take care of one another.”
This weekend, the 57 troopers who have been down in Puerto Rico will return home while 57 more will make the trip to the island.