ESCOBAL, Panama – The sun beats down on the health center as the sound of pounding metal rings though the air. In the background, the rumble of heavy machinery indicates that this is a construction site.
Lt. Col. James Dinsmore, deputy commander of the 203rd Rapid Engineer Deployed Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer Squadron, 192nd Fighter Wing, an Air Guard unit out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., along with 27 other airmen work in Panama to complete one of the many projects for U.S. Army South’s Beyond the Horizon 2013 exercise.
We are constructing an addition to the clinic along with dormitories for the employees, said Dinsmore.
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.
Schools and health centers in Escobal and Achoite are the sites for the construction projects here. BTH-Panama runs from March through June.
Dinsmore’s mission is focused on the health center in Escobal. He is the officer in charge for both the 203rd and 200th Squadrons. The 200th Squadron, 179th Fighter Wing, is out of Mansfield, Ohio.
“This is good, well-rounded training for our airmen to be deployed in a joint environment and work hand-in-hand with our counterparts in other branches,” said Dinsmore. “The Redhorse mission is set up to be self-sufficient. We deploy as a self-contained unit;that capacity lends us to come here like this and have all the trades.”
“We’re use to hitting the ground running,” said Master Sgt. Jason Hill, an equipment operator with the 200th.
After the first week, Dinsmore said his personnel are making progress but are a little behind on the construction schedule due to minor logistical material issues. He said the challenges of obtaining material in a foreign country is a good perspective for the younger troops.
The week began by placing a layer of rock to form a base for the foundation. The airmen then tamped down the rock bed. Following that, they were able to dig trenches in the rock and place the forms for the foundation as well as dig trenches for the plumbing.
“There are still a few [building] materials we need along with some contracts to be awarded,” said Dinsmore.
Even with the minor setbacks, Dinsmore said that morale is high and the airmen enjoy being here.
“It was pretty cool to be able to eat with the local people,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Beer, an equipment operator with the 179th Fighter Wing.
Some of the high morale comes from the locals offering to cook food for the airmen. Also, some of the airmen are able to walk to the local market to purchase drinks and snacks and experience the community their project is supporting.
“It’s a worthwhile cause and mission,” said Dinsmore.
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This work, REDHORSE mission kicks off in Panama, by SGT Jeff Daniel, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.