Military of Puerto Rico

The defense of Puerto Rico is the responsibility of the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris (1898).

A branch of the Air National Guard is stationed in Puerto Rico, known as the Puerto Rico Air National Guard (PRANG). It has formerly been equipped with aircraft such as the F-104 Starfighter, A-7 Corsair II, F-16, and the PRANG currently flies only C-130 Hercules airplanes. The Puerto Rico National Guard also incorporates a significant Army component. This performs missions equivalent to those of the National Guards of the 50 U.S. States, including defensive, disaster-relief, and control of civil breach-of-peace (riots, etc.).

Military facilities in Puerto Rico

The former Ramey Air Force Base on Puerto Rico has been closed for decades, and no other Air Force Bases or Naval Air Stations remain. The PRANG does not have any fighter planes anymore. Responsibility for the air defense of Puerto Rico now rests with USAF or US Navy fighters that would be flown in in case of a military emergency.

At different times in the 20th Century, the U.S. had about 25 military or naval installations in Puerto Rico, including very, very small ones., as well as other very small installations. The largest of these installations were formerly the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Ceiba, the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, and the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility (AFWTF) on Vieques (all closed now), the National Guard training facility at Camp Santiago in Salinas, the Army's Fort Buchanan in San Juan, the former U.S. Air Force Ramey Air Force Base, and the Puerto Rico Air National Guard at Muñiz Air Force base in San Juan.

The former U.S. Navy facilities at Roosevelt Roads, Vieques, and Sabana Seca have been deactivated and partially turned over to the local government. Other than U.S. Coast Guard and Puerto Rico National Guard facilities, there are only two remaining military installations in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Army's small Ft. Buchanan (supporting local veterans and reserve units) and the PRANG Air Guard Muñiz Air Base (the C-130 Fleet). In recent years, the U.S. Congress has considered their deactivations, but these have been opposed by diverse public and private entities in Puerto Rico - such as retired military and naval personell who rely on Ft. Buchanon, who rely on the Department of Defense services available there.

The coastal defense of Puerto Rico is the responsibility of the U.S. Navy from ships at sea, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The United States Coast Guard has a significant presence in Puerto Rico. Located on what was formerly Ramey Air Force Base, the Coast Guard maintains what is now referred to as the "Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen". HH-65C helicopters operate out of Borinquen performing search-and-rescue as well as law-enforcement missions. On a continual basis, Coast Guard fixed-wing airplanes, such as the C-130 Hercules search-and-rescue plane, stationed primarily in Florida fly to Puerto Rico to support these missions.

U.S. Coast Guard cutters visit Puerto Rican waters periodically in their missions of coastal patrol and search-and-rescue. U.S. Navy ships visit Puerto Rican waters on an as-required basis, just like the visit all American waters, international oceans, and foreign ones, too.

On "La Puntilla" in Old San Juan the Coast Guard bases its small but capable surface fleet of several long cutters and other patrol boats. These boats and cutters work hand in hand with the air station responding to any mission that they may be called upon to perform.

Military personnel in Puerto Rico

A significant number of Puerto Ricans participate in the US armed services, largely as National Guard members and as civilian employees. The size of the overall military-related community in Puerto Rico is estimated to be 100,000 individuals. This includes retired personnel.[2] Fort Buchanan has about 4,000 military and civilian personnel.[1] In addition, approximately 17,000 people are members of the Puerto Rico Army and Air National Guards, or the U.S. Reserve forces.[4]

Puerto Ricans from the island have served in several US military conflicts including the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War., but still a small group in absolute numbers.

A number of Puerto Rican colleges and universities have the Reserve Office Training Corps (ROTC) programs. Army ROTC programs are offered at the American University of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean University, the University of Puerto Rico - Arecibo, the University of Puerto Rico – Bayamon Technological University College, the University of Puerto Rico – Carolina Regional College, the University of Puerto Rico - Cayey, the University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez, and the University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras.[5] Air Force ROTC programs are offered at the University of Puerto Rico - Bayamon Technological University College, the University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez, and the University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras.[5]

The U.S. military has sought to form alliances with Hispanic organizations to promote military recruitment. In January 1999, leaders of National Hispanic organizations in collaboration with the US Army held the Hispanic Leadership Summit '99. The "Education and Career Opportunities for Hispanic Youth in America's Army" summit included the participation of leaders of the US Army as well as leaders of national Hispanic organizations including ASPIRA, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), SER jops for progress, and the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.[8] At the summit, the director of the LULAC National Educational Service Center (LNESC), Richard Royball commented, "Based on our mutually beneficial partnership, we would encourage other Hispanic organizations to ally themselves with the US Army."[8] LNESC promotes military recruitment in educational service centers in several US cities and in Puerto Rico.[9]

Military and Naval uses of Puerto Rico

The US military installations in Puerto Rico are part of the US Atlantic Command (LANTCOM).[2] LANTCOM has authority over all US military operations that take place throughout the Atlantic. Puerto Rico has been seen as crucial in supporting LANTCOM's mission. Both the Naval Forces Caribbean (NFC) and the Fleet Air Caribbean (FAIR) were formerly based at the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station.[2] The NFC has authority over all US Naval activity in the waters of the Caribbean while FAIR has authority over all US military flights and air operations over the Caribbean. With the closing of the Roosevelt Roads and Vieques Island training facilities, the US Navy has basically exited from Puerto Rico, except for the ships that steam by, and the only significant military presence in the island is the U.S. Army at Ft Buchanan, the Puerto Rican Army and Air National Guards, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The U.S. Navy's largest training area for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet used to be in Puerto Rico and in the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the island, but this was ended after President George W. Bush ordered the closure of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station and the Vieques Island training grounds.

Through the years, the United States had conducted several military training exercises in Puerto Rico, the largest of these being Operation Springboard and Operation Readex.[2] These exercises included thousands of personnel and involve air, sea, and land operations, and include training with live ammunition.

On top of training exercises, the US used Puerto Rico as a base to rehearse and launch military operations in Latin America and throughout the world. Operations launched from Puerto Rico include the 1954 intervention in Guatemala; the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic; the 1983 invasion of Grenada; the 1989 invasion of Panama; support of Salvadoran military; preparation for operation Desert Storm and Desert Fox in Iraq; and preparation for the War in Yugoslavia.

Nuclear weapons in Puerto Rico

With the closing of Ramey Air Force Base and the Roosevelt Road Naval Station, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force no longer have any base presence in Puerto Rico at all. Neither has the U.S. Army ever had any nuclear weapons in Puerto Rico, and the land of Puerto Rico is a completely nuclear-free zone, though the waters around it and the airspace above it are not. Those waters and the airspace are treated as belonging to the United States - but as a matter of practice and reality, U.S. warships and airplanes, and those of other countries, very rarely carry nuclear weapons over or close to Puerto Rico. They don't have any reason to. All nuclear anti-submarine weapons have been declared obsolete and removed from service by all of the major nuclear powers. American, British, Russian, and French surface warships no longer carry any nuclear missiles, by international treaty. The only U.S. Navy ships that might carry any nuclear weapons are aircraft carriers and submarines, on a neither confirm-nor-deny basis.

When it comes to nuclear propulsion, American nuclear aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines have the right to visit ports in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican ocean waters.


3. Oficina del Gobernador, Junta de Planificación; “Plan de Desarrollo Integral;” April 1979; p.[9]6

4. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Reserve Affairs; "Official Guard and Reserve Manpower Strengths and Statistics - Summary End Fiscal Year 1996;" 1996

5. Macmillam Reference USA, The College Blue Book, 26th Edition – Tabular Data; Simon & Schuster Macmillam; New York; 1997

7. Schlossberg, Leon D., Editor; "First Region JROTC Summer Camps;"; Oct. 1998

8. "US Army Meets with Hispanic Congressional and Community Leaders on Education and Career Initiatives;" La Prensa San Diego; San Diego, California; January 15, 1999

9. Dickey, Connie E., Sgt 1st Class; "Hispanic Youth Meet Army Leaders;"

10. Comité Pro Rescate y Desarrollo de Vieques; Testimony before the United States Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Washington, DC; May 6, 1999

11. Berkan, Judith; Hey-Maestre, Charles; Saade-Llorens, Pedro; "Violating the Treaty of Tlatelolco;" Arms Control Today; Vol. 15, No. 1; January 1985

12. Arkin, William; "Contingency Overseas Deployments of Nuclear Weapons - A Report;" Institute for Policy Studies; February 1985

13. Associated Press; "Blast Shakes Puerto Rico Area;" Washington Post; July 6, 1999

14. Hawley, Chris; Associated Press; "Puerto Rico protesters scrawl on Navy warship;" Boston Globe; Boston, Mass.; July 19, 1999

15. Savage, Don; "NASA Studying Space Weather from Puerto Rico;" NASA News Release;

16. Candelas, Laura; "NASA Launches Controversial Experiment;"

17. Koehler, Keith; NASA official; personal communications

18. Oliver, Lance; "Demilitarizatin Threat Salts Puerto Rico Status Issue;" LatinoLink;; April 20, 1997

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