ERDC employee helping to restore power in Puerto Rico

Published 7:03 pm Sunday, January 28, 2018

The lights have began turning back on in Puerto Rico, and it is a worker from Vicksburg who is tasked with making sure the right equipment gets to the right places.

Gregory Thomas, a logistics management specialist based out of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, is the Corps of Engineer’s Palo Seco Warehouse Manager, where millions of dollars worth of equipment are inventoried and then distributed.

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“We receive stuff from the port,” Thomas said. “It comes in the container. We get it out of the container, inventory it, place it on the shelf and the contractors bring in the documentation on what they need. The turnaround from the time the container hits here is probably less than 48 hours into the hands of the contractor.”

The Palo Seco warehouse has received upwards of $250 million worth of equipment to help restore power to the island.

“It is basically everything they are going to need to restore the power grid —poles, transformers, insulators, ground rods, all the cable,” Thomas said. The warehouse has received 17,816 poles and 5,459 miles of conductor wire so far and approximately 3,304 poles and 1,832 miles of conductor wire are expected to arrive within the next 14 days.

“It is a lot of pressure,” Thomas said.  “It is a lot of work. We normally do 10 to 15 hour days. It is labor intensive. It can be kind of stressful when you’re dealing with major contractors and they’re trying to get a job done. It is a lot of work, a lot of coordination and dealing with people and personalities.

“We are mainly trying to maintain control of the material that’s purchased and sent over to the island. Once it arrives, we maintain control of it. We receive it, inventory it and issue it to contractors.”

Thomas has been on the island for almost two months and will return to Vicksburg Feb. 7 at the end of a 60-day tour.

“It has been an amazing experience just to be here and contribute and know I am going to leave everything in the field when I leave here,” Thomas said. “I give it 100 percent everyday and it is rewarding to me to know that I did that.

“I wear a Fitbit and I hit 10,000 steps before lunch everyday. My goal at home was 10,000 and I never hit 10,000, but I can hit 10,000 steps before lunch everyday.”

In his time on the island, Thomas has seen the power slowly be restored and he said it, “feels good to see a light come on” and know he had a hand in making it possible.

“Things are coming back and they are starting a little faster now because the majority of the materials are starting to arrive,” he said. “Lights are coming on. One of the things that makes me feel better every evening, I come in its dark and when I go home its dark. So I look at the streetlights. It makes me feel good to see a light come on, on the way home even if it’s a streetlight.”