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Bliss soldiers preparing to aid Puerto Rico

Within the walls of a few hangars at Fort Bliss, you can hear the clanking of ratchets and crew leaders shouting orders at soldiers.

“3rd of the 501st Assault Battalion is preparing to deploy to Puerto Rico,” said Chief Warrant Officer Peter Klein.

Crews from the battalion are prepping Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters for transportation.

“Each one takes about two hours to break down for shipment,” Klein said.

Wednesday evening half a dozen Fort Bliss soldiers stood atop helicopters and unhinged parts so that they can fit into an Air Force cargo plane.

“We’re folding the helicopters … we’re getting all our equipment … tents, cots, everything ready so we can move the aircraft as quickly as possible onto the Air Force airplanes,” Klein said.

The 3rd battalion of the 501st is preparing eight Black Hawk helicopters for transportation.

The 127th Aviation Support Battalion is preparing two to six Chinooks for transportation as well.

The mission for either battalion isn’t clear at the moment but crews understand they’ll be needed in relief efforts.

“We move supplies and sustainment but it’s really up how Puerto Rico needs to use us,” Klein said.

Officials say Black Hawk helicopters are versatile, compact and can carry heavy loads.

“We can possibly help our with resupplying food, water, and if there’s a fuel mission,” Klein told ABC-7.

Klein tells ABC-7 although crews are focused on preparing the aircraft, they are also mentally preparing for the challenges they might face.

“We’ve got to quickly get trained back up on over water operations and possible deck landings,” Klein said.

The soldiers are currently awaiting the call for deployment. If the battalions do get deployed they can expect to stay anywhere from 30 to 90 days.

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