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    Floridians Unite in El Salvador

    Floridians Unite in El Salvador

    Photo By Spc. Jorge Garcia | From Left Chief Master Sgt. Waters, Maj. Angel Villafane with the 202nd RED HORSE and...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Jorge Garcia 

    106th Public Affairs Detachment

    Airmen with the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron were tasked with building one of four school buildings just outside the city of Zacatecoluca, capital of the department of La Paz, while CJTF—Hope TF Engineers HQ provided them with all the provisions and resources needed to complete the arduous mission from the Forward Operating Base, Mira Flores. The TF Engineers HQ and the 202nd RED HORSE are both from the Florida National Guard.
    “It’s unique that we’re all from Florida and some of us work co-located in Camp Blanding, but we really don’t get an opportunity to work together until we come to El Salvador and do something as unique as Beyond the Horizon,” said Lt. Col. Blake M. Heidelberg, the task force officer for the mission. “We thought it’d be interesting to tell Floridians that we linked up in El Salvador.”
    CJTF -- Hope worked directly with the Salvadoran ministries of finance, water, health and education to coordinate support and synchronize their efforts to meet the needs of the local students who are expecting to attend the newly constructed schools, Heidelberg said. Early on in the mission, there were logistical issues with contracting which caused the operation to fall behind schedule, but the RED HORSE units were able to overcome the initial obstacles and get back on schedule.
    Maj. Angel Villafane, senior engineer of the 202nd RED HORSE, said for most of the engineers, it was a new experience and a welcomed change from what they normally do back home. The Airmen performed concrete block construction, ceiling block construction, worked with metal roofs, louvers and windows. This training is meant to prepare them mentally and physically for future deployments and it polishes their skills.
    He also adds that during war times, an engineer overseas might be limited with the materials needed for loftier construction, but in this case, since this is a humanitarian training exercise, resources are plentiful, and the RED HORSE are focusing on honing their skills as engineers while learning new techniques.
    “You may see an individual back home working on their trade and take that same individual and bring him overseas—now it’s like, ‘oh wow, my trade matters and I’m affecting the lives of people,’” said Staff Sgt. Hector Diaz of the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron Engineers. “The advantage of coming out like this to help people is that I can hone in on my skills.”
    Villafane notes, during the building process, the engineers based their procedure on the Department Of Defense’s Unified Facility Criteria (UFC). They make sure that every aspect of production is upholding D.O.D military grade standard, which makes for a more stringent process throughout the sum of construction. This process ensures that there is no loss in quality during assembly.

    On the other hand, Heidelberg added, the lives of over 300 children were impacted with the construction of the school and it will continue to do so with the generations that follow the course. With the synchronized efforts of the CJTF--Hope and the 202nd RED HORSE, obstacles were cleared and five well-made products were produced that meet Army South standards but also meet the contract made with the people of El Salvador.
    “You know it’s amazing—you walk out there and you talk to the young Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers and they’re holding their head high; their chest are poked out and they’re proud of what they’re doing,” said Heidelberg. “They’re proud of being apart of this and at the end of the day we try to remind ourselves because it’s easy to lose focus.”
    “This is for the Salvadoran people.”



    Date Taken: 07.22.2018
    Date Posted: 07.24.2018 15:52
    Story ID: 285266
    Location: ZACATECOLUCA, SV 

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