SHILOH, Ill. / SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (KMOX) — 500 Illinois National Guard soldiers are on standby should they be needed for recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Governor Bruce Rauner made the announcement Monday — Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, spokesman for the Illinois National Guard, says Puerto Rico has to formally request the help.

“Along with any of our emergency contacts with other states or territories, we need a request to do that,” Leighton tells KMOX. The guard has helped in recovery efforts across the country, notably during Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, but Leighton says a formal request was required each time before ground troops were sent in.

The Illinois Guard is already helping in other ways — Leighton says 8 airmen based at Scott Air Force base have been on the island since September 23 setting up emergency communication networks for first responders.

Also, 15 soldiers are part of a security team guarding a military airport.

“These are fellow Americans in need, I think the governor was very straightforward in saying ‘we’re going to do our best to help them in this time of need,'” Leighton says.

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