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    Rhode Island native learns new trades in Belize

    Rhode Island native learns new trades in Belize

    Photo By 1st Lt. Kali Gradishar | U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justin Gonzalez, New Horizons pavements and construction...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Kali Gradishar 

    12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)

    BELIZE CITY, Belize - A U.S. Air Force pavements and construction equipment operator from the 820th RED HORSE Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., is learning new construction trades while deployed in support of New Horizons Belize 2014.

    Less than three years ago, Gonzalez realized he needed to find a good path to follow, he said, and that's what led him to the Air Force and the RED HORSE unit.

    "I grew up poor and didn't feel like I could afford college. I joined the military, and now I can get my degree with tuition assistance and travel around the world," said Senior Airman Justin Gonzalez. "I'm working on my (Community College of the Air Force) degree in Construction Technology, and Belize has been my first opportunity to travel."

    Gonzalez is stationed at Nellis AFB with his wife, Stephanie, both natives of Rhode Island. He is looking for overseas opportunities, he said, and his wife is very supportive.

    "She's excited for me to be able to do things like this," said Gonzalez. "It's time away from her, but she knew what we were in for when I joined the military."

    Gonzalez is now supporting New Horizons, a multi-faceted exercise geared toward providing mutual engineering and medical training opportunities for Belize Defence Force, Canadian and U.S. military members. He's experiencing a number of firsts with less than three years in service.

    "This is my first deployment, and it's also the first time I've done so much work outside my career field," said Gonzalez, originally from Providence, R.I. "I'm supporting the (entire RED HORSE team). It's good work, and it's different from what I usually do; but work is work to me. I'll do it."

    During New Horizons, Gonzalez is expanding his knowledge into the vertical construction of structures.

    "Normally, I would be working on runways, operating giant trucks and excavating," said. "But here in Belize, I'm learning a lot of things outside what I would usually do at Nellis.

    "I've learned about laying block and mixing mortar to make sure it's not too sloppy or too dry," said the Airman. "I'm looking forward to learning how to do electrical work and putting the roof on. I'll also get the chance to lead the concrete pour for a sidewalk.

    Gonzalez said the work is hard, but one of the important aspects of hard work is keeping up morale.

    "Here, they're calling me "Yeah-Yeah" like from the movie "The Sandlot," even though I've never seen it. It's a funny group of guys here," said Gonzalez. "We're working about (5 a.m. to 5 p.m.), so it's good that we're able to keep up morale. The long days and painful block hands can get to you, but as long as you keep your mind in the right place, your body will be fine."

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    Date Taken: 04.24.2014
    Date Posted: 04.25.2014 13:49
    Story ID: 127627
    Location: BELIZE CITY, BZ

    Web Views: 431
    Downloads: 0