SANGIN, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
SANGIN, Helmand province, Afghanistan - Men and women around the world love to pick up power tools and build. The project may be as small as a birdhouse or as large as a sky-scraper, but when completed, it will always award the craftsman with the feeling of accomplishment. Those who build can see a tangible difference from start to finish and have something to show for their time and effort.
Honolulu native Petty Officer 1st Class Flo Baltazar, a civil engineer corps chief with 2nd Marine Division (Forward), knows his passion lies in building. The process of constructing a building and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with its completion drives him to be the best.
His enthusiasm for construction began at an early age when he worked for his father’s construction company during high school.
It was a small business and the projects ranged from parking entrances and roof renovations to building a two-story house from the ground up. He also participated in his school’s Navy JROTC program, which instilled in him a duty to serve his country.
Baltazar graduated from Damien Memorial High School in 1997 and decided to merge his two interests. He planned on pursuing his love of construction while serving his country.
His first duty station after recruit training was Port Hueneme, Calif. with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3. He joined his fellow sailors in Guam shortly after checking in to the unit.
“I’m from Hawaii and I thought I would be fine, but Guam was hot” said Baltazar. “When I first got there the humidity hit me in the face as soon as I got off the plane.”
Baltazar continued to hone his skills with a hammer in Guam by helping to build a 20 by 40 foot administration building and a 100 meter concrete sidewalk, among other projects, with the sailors of NMCB-3.
He returned to the United States, after the seven-month deployment, where his unit spent another seven months training and participating in field exercises before deploying to Spain. He joined a detachment of sailors shortly after arriving and traveled to the island of Crete where he was responsible for buying the materials for the projects as the supply expeditor.
In June 1999, Baltazar received orders to support a peacekeeping operation in Kosovo where he helped build 85 modified sea huts, a six-room wooden building with one bathroom, in three months.
He spent the next few years traveling back to Crete, Hawaii, and finally to Okinawa, Japan, where he met his wife and has lived for nearly seven years.
Baltazar is currently deployed to Afghanistan where he is responsible for reviewing projects proposed by different civil affairs teams that cost more than $100,000. He also makes quality assessment inspections on the projects throughout the stages of their construction to make sure local Afghan contractors are following the plans correctly. Balthazar is a generally reserved individual, but his passion for construction shows itself when he does his assessments.
“[Baltazar] is an asset to have here; he is a force multiplier,” said Millstone Township, N.J., native Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard Hileman, the Civil Military Operations chief for 2nd Marine Division (Forward). “He is very methodical in the way he works; he is very systematic in ensuring the quality of construction projects. I can see building is his passion.”
Baltazar has been in the Navy for 14 years and plans on being enlisted for as long as possible. His responsibilities have changed over the years, but his passion still lies in building.
“The first five years I was building and I loved to build, but the higher you go the less time you spend building and more time you spend leading the troops. Swinging a hammer has always been a good stress reliever and at the end of the day, when you see what you’ve built, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment. In a way my recruiter was right, I got to see the world and do what I loved.”
Editor’s note: Baltazar belongs to Civil Military Operations for 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck.
The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Honolulu native helps build strong foundation for Afghan future, by Sgt Jeff Drew, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.