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    U.S. Army Reserve Engineers Try, Succeed in Belize

    Finally Done

    Photo By Sgt. Scott Wolfe | Engineers with the 471st (Vertical) and 756th (Horizontal) Engineer Companies, 448th...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Scott Wolfe 

    128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    The motto for the Army Engineer Corps is “Essayons,” a French word meaning “We Will Try.” It denotes a willingness to take on a task, no matter how hard. The 471st Engineer Company (Vertical), an Army Reserve unit from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, was tasked with creating an operating base in the opening phase of Beyond the Horizon 2017 taking place in Belize.

    Beyond the Horizon 2017 is a partnership exercise between U.S. Southern Command and the Government of Belize that will provide three medical service events and five construction projects to communities throughout Belize from March to the middle of June.

    The base built by the 471st is the coordination and staging point for every construction project and medical mission Task Force Jaguar will push out to the communities of Belize during BTH. The success of this exercise will hinge upon this base being operational in time to coordinate those efforts.

    The 471st came up against a variety of obstacles during construction of the base. Initial construction was delayed due to the late arrival of equipment. With that delay, they were forced to build for half a week with only a few hand and power tools to meet their deadline. There was a mad scramble to make up for a shortage of planned electrical power. Even with all this, the engineers of the 471st still completed their mission.

    This engineer detachment brought 45 Soldiers to Belize, 30 from the 471st and 15 from their sister unit, the 756th Eng. Co. (Horizontal). Both companies are part of the 448th Eng. Battalion.

    Part of the mandate of any unit’s first sergeant is to make sure his Soldiers can work together as a team. Trying to integrate these two units into one cohesive command structure and keep them moving forward, regardless of any trying circumstances, fell to 1st Sgt. Jorge Coreano, the senior enlisted leader of the 471st. Coreano is quick to talk about what impressed him the most during his stay in Belize.

    “Since day zero,” he said, “their motivation has been unbelievable. No matter the constraints, no matter the heat, the lack of tools, the changes to the plan, nothing. They always were motivated to continue, to keep driving forward, to improvise and accomplish our mission. You can see them doing PT at night, working together, taking care of each other, playing dominoes together. That says a lot about these Soldiers, about the integrity of this unit, and how well they have come together,” said Coreano.

    Sgt. 1st Class Victor Misla, the job site foreman responsible for directing supplies, Soldiers, and their efforts on the construction projects, agreed whole-heartedly about unit cohesion.

    “I know that when they go back home to Puerto Rico, the 756th won’t say, ‘I was treated like a different unit.’ They will say I was treated as a Soldier, with respect. We integrated everybody, and there was no 471st and 756th. We treated everybody the same. We are one unit, one team.”

    The operations base and living areas this team built will sustain upwards of 200 Soldiers, Airmen and Marines at any one time. This includes sleeping quarters, latrines, showers, a mobile kitchen, dining facilities and working spaces for the command and staff. There is even a small military convenience store.

    Both Coreano and Misla deferred to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Herminio Romero when asked about what the engineers built on the FOB.

    “Between the (sleeping) tents, there are five electrical distribution boxes, two for the TOC (Tactical Operations Center), one for the showers and one for the spare,” said Romero, cocking his head to the side, trying not leave out any details.

    His list grew to include the four 2,500 gallon gray-water tanks off the shower stalls, the capacity of the black water tanks, the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit, and how many amps the generators crank out. Familiar with as many aspects of the planning and layout of the construction as he was, Romero rattled off his list without a pause.

    Based on prior planning and the type of construction intended, the engineers loaded the tools they would need on a boat, shipping them to their destination ahead of time. The intent was to arrive, unload, and begin construction. Unfortunately, the task force arrived on time, but there was no boat and no tools to begin their projects.

    “That first day we started with one circular saw and four hammers,” said Misla. “When we started building platforms; we had two circular saws and five hammers.”

    They rearranged their work schedule to make up for the slow start. Rather than 10-hour days, they changed to 12 and 14 hours before they would stop for the day. A few times they just worked until the sun set.

    An engineer company specializing in creating buildings from the ground up will have certain job skills that emphasize creating a building’s infrastructure, such as electricians, plumbers and carpentry and masonry specialists. Once they had a few hand tools, the carpentry crew could start, but nobody else, until the boat arrived.

    “At the beginning, we didn’t have all the tools to start the plan we originally had,” said Misla.

    So began a hurried cross-training program for the electricians and plumbers. They were integrated with the carpenters and the hammering and cutting didn’t stop until the boat arrived and was unloaded. Then the work began in earnest.

    Getting electricity was yet another hurdle.

    “In the original plan, when we arrived, we were expecting to get city power,” said Romero. “Prior to coming, we found out they were not able to award the contract.” He held up three fingers for emphasis and his voice grated out the words, “Three days before we were supposed to come.”

    But then he shrugs, and his face and voice relent, acknowledging a work-around was reached. He points to the big white generators, taller than him. “So we go from two generators to four.”

    The Soldiers of the 471st addressed and overcame hardships and difficulties by adapting a plan that itself was an adaptation of the original. Their formula for success was as follows: There was a problem. We figured it out. We drove on.

    Throughout the laundry list of challenges faced by the 471st there is an undercurrent of pride. It is not just what the unit was able to accomplish against the time clock of a 20-day building plan and losing almost a half-week of work, but pride in the people involved.

    “We faced many challenges in the construction of this FOB,” said Misla. “But the biggest thing I will walk away from in this, is the importance of communication between the leaders and the Soldiers. They have to know what you plan for today, what you plan for tomorrow. They have to know their procedures for when the challenges come. These challenges, they will come.”

    And the engineers “Will Try”.


    Date Taken: 03.30.2017
    Date Posted: 03.31.2017 22:44
    Story ID: 228848
    Location: LADYVILLE, BZ
    Hometown: GUAYNABO, PR

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    Downloads: 2