BELIZE CITY – U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers battle the heat and humidity in Belize while enhancing their readiness during Beyond the Horizon (BTH) 2017, a campaign of three medical exercises and construction projects over a four month period in Belize. From engineering to water purification and laundry and bath, Army Reserve Soldiers are testing their capabilities during this exercise by providing focused humanitarian services to areas in Ladyville, St. Matthews and Cayo.
During BTH, active duty, National Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserve, U.S. Marine Reserve, and U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers will rotate in and out of Belize after reaching their particular milestone within their three week period.
“The first phase is complete, and I am very happy with our progress even though we started out five days behind,” said Col. John Simma, task force commander for BTH. “Our equipment arrived late, but with the hard work of our Army Reserve Soldiers from Puerto Rico and the Soldiers from the National Guard, they were able to get the forward operation base (FOB) up and running and get us back on track.”
In Ladyville, a new clinic building is being built as part of the Ladyville Heath Clinic. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the 672nd Engineer Company from Missoula, Montana have been hard at work working on the foundation that was already in place.
Pfc. Matthew Barta, assigned to the 672nd Engineer Company, expressed what a great experience BTH has been for him.
“This is a great thing to be a part of, and it brings me joy knowing that I help people and get training at the same time,” said Barta. “We are here to build a clinic, and I have been able to learn a lot, exchange knowledge and have fun.”
As these Soldiers work on their site day in and day out, the staff members from the clinic interact with them and get updates on the progress made.
“They come out and talk to us all the time, and we try to have the most interaction with them as possible,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Peoples, attached to the 672nd. “They look at our project, and we have taken them through the building to see the progress, and they are extremely happy with what we have so far.”
Soldiers from various units across four different states were pulled together to meet the requirement for the 672nd Engineer Company. Having to work with new Soldiers for the first time can be challenging, but it is a reality that Reserve units share during deployment situations.
“I was attached to the 672nd for this mission, and my experience has been amazing,” said Peoples. “I was able to come out here with new Soldiers and have learned a lot not only from U.S. forces but the Trinidad and Tobago and Belizean forces as well.”
Brig. Gen. Alberto C. Rosende, commanding general for the 1st Mission Support Command, visited two of the construction sites during a visit to Belize April 5-7. While visiting each location, Rosende received a short recap of the work completed. The construction teams were delighted to share their experience with Rosende and show off the great job they completed during their rotation. He also had the opportunity to talk with Soldiers providing the sustainment support of the exercise.
“There is a lot of value in participating in these humanitarian exercises,” said Rosende. “We have the opportunity to build relationships and partner with other nations and sister services. Here we are partnered with the Belizean Defense Force to provide medical facilities and school houses for their country with the help of not only Army personnel but U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marines.”
Working alongside different services and nations is also a reality for any combat environment where Reserve Soldiers participate. Beyond the Horizon not only helps with ensuring proficiency with one’s military occupational skills but ensures that units as a whole have are prepared to respond to any mission either at home or abroad.
Master Sgt. Jennifer Trumbull, assigned to the 659th Engineer Company in Spokane, Wash., is also attached to the 672nd and has been working at the St. Matthews Government School project site.
“During out time here we have laid the foundation for a three-room school house and we dug a septic system next to their existing restrooms,” said Trumbull. “This has been a great experience, and I have learned so much. Being a horizontal engineer, I learned a lot about vertical engineering. Likewise, vertical engineers learned about horizontal construction as this project involves both pieces. Everyone has come together and worked beautifully. I guess it doesn’t matter where you come from; engineers are engineers.”
Trumbull plans on taking everything she has learned during BTH and applying it during her upcoming deployment in October.
“This functional training that our Soldiers are getting is something that cannot be duplicated anywhere else,” said Rosende. “Our engineers get a chance to work on permanent structures and go beyond what we would do in a combat environment.”
“Our sustainment Soldiers are here doing what they would do if they were in a combat environment,” continued Rosende. “Whether they are proving logistical support, laundry, and bath or water purification, they are getting the functional training that they need to be prepared and ready for any mission.”
“It has been an amazing experience for me,” said Spc. Harley Thurman, assigned to the 452nd Quartermaster Company from Scottsdale, Ariz. “It is wonderful to see how grateful people are for the services we provide even if it is something simple like laundry. We provide laundry services to everyone on the forward operating base, and when we talk to the engineers, they are just grateful that they can get back and pick up their laundry already clean and folded for them.”
Spc. Pedro Lopez, assigned to the 973rd Quartermaster Company from Puerto Rico, also has an important mission during this exercise, water purification.
“I have been a part of other water purification missions, but this one is a bit tougher,” said Lopez. “We are producing about 8,000 gallons of water a day. I am learning a lot of stuff daily, so this has been a great experience.”
For Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Trinidad and Tobago Soldiers and the Belizean Defense Force, this exercise not only enhances their skills by providing an opportunity to use their abilities but allows them to share individual knowledge with each other during projects.
“Everyone has come integrated well and are working as one team,” said Simma. “It’s one team, one fight. They have done an outstanding job with taking care of each other and working together to keep their projects on track.”
“We continue to build our partnership with Belize and are reinforcing our skills, especially as Reserve Soldiers deploying and redeploying from home station,” concluded Simma.
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This work, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers complete phase one of BTH – Belize Exercise, by MAJ Ruth Castro, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.