NEWARK — Several hundred members of New Jersey law enforcement and public servants returned from Puerto Rico on Saturday night.

The final contingent of officers who volunteered to assist the residents of battered Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria came from several dozen agencies across the state. After their trip to the island, they were welcomed back to Newark Liberty International Airport.

Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan welcomed the group home as they passed through the terminal, according to News 12 New Jersey.

The news outlet said the 12 State Police cruisers brought to Puerto Rico will be left there as many of their own vehicles were destroyed.

NJ Pride was a two-month mission, which began on September 30 as the island began the task of recovery after nearly the entire island was without electricity after the storms. Over the course of the next two months teams were deployed to Puerto Rico in two-week intervals.

Mountain Lakes Police Corporal Sam Trimble was one of the 194 State Troopers, 133 local and county police officers, and 20 civilians from various state and local agencies who volunteered their service. He told New Jersey 101.5 he did a little bit of everything during his two weeks.

"Primarily our goal down there was directing traffic. So many traffic lights are out" which led to gridlock, Trimble said.

They also went on patrol looking for ways to open up transportation routes for the residents of the island. "We'd find areas that need some help with water and food . I know we had some guys there who took down some trees, opened up roadways .Really anything that they need we were there ready to help the people of Puerto Rico."

The country has come a long way in the past several months in its recovery, but there's a long way, according to Trimble.

"It was unbelievable seeing the basic needs that we have here in the states, like running water and food at the table. So many people in Puerto Rico don't have that," he said. "It was really sad and really hard to see, especially children going to schools. We're bringing cases and cases of water to schools because kids are thirsty. Kids are hungry. They're not getting the food at night. Their roof is ripped off. They're sleeping under a blue tarp," Trimble said.

Being able to help the kids was also the best part of Trimble's time in Puerto Rico.

"Landing in Puerto Rico, all you see is houses tarped with these blue tarps. That's tough. Seeing these kids in school, their clothes are soiled, knowing they're not getting the right food and water at home, that was really the best part of our mission was to be able to feed and get these people water."

Trimble said that "making a difference in these people's lives was something I will never forget for the rest of my career."

He said he was touched by the pride and hospitality of the Puerto Rican people, who offered him and other officers waters with a smile.

"They're giving us stuff when they have nothing," he said. "They barely have clothes on their back ... just a touching thing."

Trimble said that his two weeks in Puerto Rico is "a drop in the bucket" compared to the assignments members of the military spend away from their families.

He also said the State Police operation ran like a "well oiled machine," and everyone there, no matter their agency, was treated like they were members of one big team. He hopes to use their style of leadership in his own day-to-day duties in Mountain Lakes.

"You just don't see that kind of leadership everywhere you go," Trimble said. "That says a lot about them. I'm going to try and bring that back to our place."

Assisting Agencies in NJ Pride:
• NJ Department of Community Affairs
• NJ Department of Corrections
• NJ Department of Transportation
• NJ Forrest Fire Service
• NJDEP Forest Fire Service
• NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness
• NJ State Human Services PD
• NJDEP State Park Police
• Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office
• Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
• Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
• Essex County Sheriff’s Office
• Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office
• Middlesex County
• Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office
• Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
• Ocean County Sheriff’s Office
• Passaic County Sheriff’s Office
• Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office
• Union County Prosecutor’s Office
• Union County Sheriff’s Office
• Gloucester County OEM
• Brick PD
• Caldwell PD
• Clark PD
• Cranford PD
• Denville PD
• Deptford PD
• Fairview PD
• Fanwood PD
• Freehold Borough PD
• Galloway Twp PD
• Hammonton PD
• Howell PD
• Irvington PD
• Jersey City PD
• Kenilworth PD
• Lakewood PD
• Long Branch PD
• Middletown Twp PD
• Mt. Lakes PD
• Neptune PD
• Newark PD
• North Bergen PD
• North Caldwell PD
• Paramus PD
• Passaic PD
• Paterson PD
• Perth Amboy PD
• Pleasantville PD
• Red Bank PD
• Ridgefield PD
• Roselle Park PD
• Rutgers PD
• Trenton PD
• Union Twp PD
• West Orange PD
• William Paterson University PD

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ.

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