COLON, Panama – Members of 3rd Platoon measured, sawed and hammered their way through another annual training. However this year most of them are much farther from home than usual.
Sixty-six soldiers from the 284th Engineer Company, known as “The Outlaws,” 961st Engineer Battalion, 420th Engineer Brigade, an Army Reserve unit out of Seagoville, Texas, including 3rd Platoon from Santa Fe, N.M., arrived in Panama as March closed out. They are conducting their annual training as part of U.S. Army South’s Beyond the Horizon training exercise.
Beyond the Horizon is an Army South training mission that provides humanitarian and civic assistance programs in Panama. Several of the programs slated for completion include construction projects at schools and health centers in Escobal and Achiote. BTH-Panama runs from March to June.
The 284th is starting projects at schools in Escobal and Achiote, as well as working on projects around the former U.S. Army base – Fort Sherman. Fort Sherman is now partially used by Aeronaval, the Panamanian coast guard.
The Outlaws will be on ground in Panama for a month during BTH; they will have two teams of soldiers come for two weeks each.
“These are great missions and the overall meaning is good,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Adams, a 284th training operations non-commissioned officer. “This is the most opportune training these soldiers get.”
Adams explained they usually have the equipment but not the real estate on which to operate during regular weekend drills.
“Not only is this technical, but its tactical training,” said Adams who hails from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. “The opportunity to use your skills is great.”
The soldiers used the opportunity to train in areas where they have little experience.
“I don’t have much training in carpentry, so I am learning about that,” said Pvt. Olibama Maestas, an electrician with 3rd Platoon, who is from El Rito, N.M.
Spc. Michael Pennington, a carpentry and masonry specialist assigned to 1st Platoon, said that he also received driver’s training on the different types of heavy equipment used at the construction site in Escobal.
“I also received sling load training,” said Pennington. Sling loading is the method used to move large heavy objects around by helicopter. Spc. Krashella McQuirter, a carpentry and masonry specialist assigned to 1st Platoon from Dallas, said she learned a lot about rebar and was impressed with the quality of training.
“It’s awesome training,” said McQuirter. “I even learned a little Spanish.”
Another opportunity to learn, according to Adams, is to allow the younger soldiers to take charge.
“Some of the younger soldiers can’t show what they can do because they were handicapped because [other NCOs] were in charge back home, but here we get to do more,” said Adams.
First Lt. Michael Mast, 1st a platoon leader and project manager with the 284th, said that this training gives him a chance to develop young soldiers into leaders.
“They are taking on tasks and leading squads that they would not normally do in a garrison environment,” said Mast who hails from Stone Lake, Iowa.
Second Lt. Ben Zilka, 3rd platoon leader and project manager at the Escobal site with the 284th, explained that they are on alert for an upcoming deployment, so this type of training is vital.
“There are plenty of opportunities for the lower enlisted to lead,” said Zilka who is from Little Falls, Minn.
Even with all the training, BTH-Panama and the Outlaws’ effects will be lasting.
At the end of BTH-Panama, Escobal’s health clinic will receive additional exam rooms and a dormitory for the workers, along with a cover for the basketball court at the secondary school. Achiote will receive a new health clinic and lavatories for the school.
“The soldiers are excited to have a great impact on the village,” said Capt. Michael Coyle, 284th company commander who is from Dallas. “This is a great opportunity for the soldiers to work with other nationalities,” said Coyle of his soldiers who are working with the Panamanians and an engineering team from the Colombian military.
Mast said the soldiers are motivated and are beginning to see the “fruits of their labor.”
“There is a lot of motivation to improve the school for the children,” said Mast. “It’s good to see a direct impact on our mission.”
Working to improve the lives of the locals, and the chance to improve their skills was important to many of the soldiers.
“I think it’s great that we got a chance to come here,” said Pennington who hails from Corsicana, Texas. “What gives me more satisfaction is the fact that I was involved in building for the Panamanians. If I’m going to go somewhere and not take anything back, then what’s the point of being there.”
Beyond the Horizon is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army South-planned and led annual humanitarian and civic assistance exercise. The exercise provides construction and medical assistance to partner nations throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean.
The exercise generally takes place in rural, underprivileged areas and is a major component of the U.S. military's regional engagement efforts and it affords a unique opportunity to train U.S. service members alongside partner nation personnel, while providing needed services to communities throughout the region.
|Date Posted:||04.23.2013 19:55|
|Hometown:||CORSICANA, TX, US|
|Hometown:||DALLAS, TX, US|
|Hometown:||ESPANOLA, NM, US|
|Hometown:||JEFFERSON, IA, US|
|Hometown:||LITTLE FALLS, MN, US|
|Hometown:||SANTA FE, NM, US|
|Hometown:||SEAGOVILLE, TX, US|
|Hometown:||ST. CROIX, VI|
This work, ‘The Outlaws’ build their way through annual training for Beyond the Horizon Exercise, by SGT Jeff Daniel, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.