Tent systems form building blocks to restore living conditions to Yutu survivors

By: Staff Sgt. James Kennedy Benjamin

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U.S. Army Spc. John Blas, a Soldier with the 797th Engineer Company (Vertical), 9th Mission Support Command, currently assigned to Joint Task Group-Saipan, Task Force-West, stakes a metal rod into the ground to secure a FEMA tent, which will be used as temporary shelter for Saipan residents impacted by Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 9, 2018. Service members from Joint Region Marianas and other units from within U.S. Indo-Pacific Command assigned to Task Force-West are providing Department of Defense support to the CNMI's civil and local officials as part of the FEMA-supported Super Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. James Kennedy Benjamin)

SAIPAN, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands -- Local and federal government agencies collaborated, Nov. 9, 2018, to provide temporary shelters to Saipan-based residents whose homes were heavily impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with support from the U.S. military, implemented a Temporary Emergency Tent and Roofing Installation Support program.

"For the last 36 hours, we have been setting up temporary tents for civilians so that they can live in better conditions," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Quintin Duenas, the 797th Engineer Company (Vertical) commander, 9th Mission Support Command. "The goal is to get them out of the shelters and back into their homes."

The tent setup is being led by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services with support from 9th MSC Soldiers, according to Duenas.

On the first day, DFEMS trained the Soldiers on how to assemble the tents, along with many tent accessories such as a portable cooking stove and toilet bowl.

The FEMA tents weigh 570 pounds and take about 30 minutes to set up. Large teams of personnel have set up 36 tents so far.

One Koblerville resident who received a tent was very grateful.

"I thank all the people who are coming and helping," said Ana Aldan, who was living in Kagman village with her sister during the storm. "I was very scared because everything was just shaking," she said with a trembling voice, fighting her tears, as she recounted her Yutu experience. "I knew that my house was gone."

With no roof and all her household belongings damaged, Aldan continues to live with extended family, whose homes were not as impacted by the storm, Aldan said. She returns each morning to sit and stare at what is left of her home.

"I am disabled and sometimes it is hard for me to come around here," said Aldan, who lives by herself. "Instead of staying with somebody else and borrowing a car to come down [here], this will make me feel like I have a home to live in again."

In addition to the tent set up, another joint team is conducting individual house assessments. The team includes Soldiers from the 9th MSC, and Airmen from several units at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, including the 254th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, Guam Air National Guard and 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen, as well as FEMA and local government representatives.

"There are a lot of things that we are working out as far as processes for this joint team like operations," Duenas said, "but so far it has been positive. It is productive and we are reaching more homes and more families every day."

The assessments determine whether a house can be repaired by military engineers in a two-day timeframe or must be contracted through FEMA if it does not meet that two-day timeline.

"We are excited to be here to help," Duenas said. "We are going to do our best to get Saipan back on its feet as quickly as possible."

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