News: Soldiers work with Honduran communities to make exercise successful
Story by 1st Lt. John Quin
ORIENTE, Honduras – When soldiers broke ground on a clinic in the town of Oriente, Honduras, Task Force Tropic wanted to make sure that heavy equipment and blocked roads didn’t disrupt life in the town.
For five soldiers from the 152nd Theater Information Operations Group and the 303rd Field Support Battalion, based at Camp Parks in Dublin, Calif., making sure locals were happy with the task force’s work was a top priority, said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Parker, of San Jose, Calif.
“We want to project a favorable image to the populace,” Parker said. “We want to identify anything that might impact the community in a negative way early, and then work with the local community and our task force to come to a mutual agreement.”
Parker’s team was on the ground throughout U.S. Army South’s Beyond the Horizon 2012 exercise. The exercise combines military training exercises with real-world humanitarian missions, including building projects and medical aid. In every area where soldiers, sailors and airmen operated, Parker and his team reached out to the local community. In the process, they found new missions and forged relationships that lasted throughout the exercise.
“We try to get out to the sites as much as we can,” Parker said. “We just talk to people – ask them questions. Every time you talk to them, they just open right up.”
If there is a problem, the task force needs to know about it immediately, said Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Jayme, of Daly City, Calif.
“We need that feedback from local leaders in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Jayme said. “If there’s any negative feedback, we want to know about it so we can resolve it.”
In every location, the task force was warmly received, Parker said.
“The people were extremely supportive,” Parker said. “They’ve expressed numerous times that they don’t want us to leave – that we’re working too fast, and we should slow down and stay longer.”
When work began on a new clinic in Oriente, the team visited a nearby school that was in desperate need of supplies and improvements. Between April and June, the team brought three loads of school supplies soldiers had donated to the school. On June 29, Jayme brought the final load, which weighed 80 pounds, in his Army duffel bag.
“We brought a few materials the kids will be able to use,” Jayme said. “Pencils, erasers, notebooks. The school told me these should last them for a while.”
The school’s director, Osiris Castillo, was overjoyed on seeing the supplies. With the help of two young assistants, Kevin and Ariel, she and Jayme put the materials in a closet for use when school reopened the next day.
“All the materials that the children use will be kept in the school except the notebooks,” Castillo said. “We will try to use it all sparingly so it lasts.”
In addition to the donations of supplies, task force members had built a playhouse and cabinets and installed electric lighting and fans in the one-room schoolhouse.
“I’m very happy with everything they have done for this classroom,” Castillo said. “The American soldiers have been very generous to us.”