News: Colorado Army Reservists lead humanitarian, civic assistance exercise in Panama
Story by Capt. Sarah Harris
COLON, Panama – The opening ceremony for Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 took place here April 17 where Army Reservists from Colorado and support personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Army and National Guard will work alongside Panamanian personnel providing medical, dental and engineer construction assistance in underprivileged areas in Panama.
“Above all, this mission is about people helping people and our desire to work together to make things better,” said Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, Army South deputy commanding general. “This will be a tremendous achievement and proof that partnerships work.”
Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, U.S. Army South-led exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals to Panama for training, while working alongside Panamanian personnel to provide services to rural communities.
Task Force-Panama, comprised of Army Reservists from the 244th Engineer Battalion based in Colorado, took part in the opening ceremony which signifies the start of projects in various communities throughout Panama.
Task Force-Panama is led by Lt. Col. Malcolm Walker, 244th battalion commander, who will oversee three construction sites and three medical readiness training exercises during 12 weeks of service member rotations.
Working closely with Panamanian security forces and government organizations, in addition to providing engineering and construction services, the task force will provide MEDRETEs for the benefit of the local population in three areas, De Plata, Los Valles and Calobre.
“If you’re not learning anything while you are here, you’re wrong,” said Walker during a welcome brief to incoming personnel. “Our mission here is to learn. If you’re a plumber learn how to work with electrical, if you’re electrical, learn to work with plumbing.”
The first rotation of soldiers has already begun work at various sites in Panama.
Soldiers on two-week rotations will be employing their specific military skills as engineers, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, medics and support personnel. Service members will continue to rotate in to Panama every two weeks to perform their jobs. The projects are expected to be completed by early July.
Soldiers have been in Panama for several weeks prior to the opening ceremony as part of the duration team, preparing for the arrival of other soldiers and airmen rotating in to support the mission.
“My goal is for every soldier to come back with new skills, and ensure they’ve had the opportunity to interact with different cultures,” said Walker.
Conducted annually, these missions are a part of SOUTHCOM’s humanitarian and civic assistance program.
Date Posted:04.25.2013 14:21
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