Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, April 25, 2016 —
Guatemalan and U.S. forces stood side by side in formation
during a ceremony to open a joint-foreign military humanitarian civic
assistance exercise called Beyond the Horizon April 7 in San Marcos, Guatemala.
Nestled between lush, green fields scattered with grazing
cows, a variety of military vehicles displayed in an arch formation showcased
Guatemalan army equipment.
Nearby, Soldiers from the Guatemalan Mountain Brigade
demonstrated their capabilities as they repelled from trees and across ropes as
different colors of smoke wafted through the air. A military band played
ceremonial music and the Color Guard, which included flags from both nations,
marched to the center of the field.
Speakers took turns with translations shifting from Spanish
to English for an audience that included the Guatemalan Minister of Defense and
a number of other Guatemalan government cabinet members, as well as senior
ranking military officials from both countries.
“This will be a tremendous achievement and proof that partnerships
do work,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Torres, Army South deputy commanding general,
formally kicking off the 15-week event that began in March. “Thanks to the
relationships built and sustained with our Guatemalan partners through previous
exercises and operations, we are able to build upon our training and
interaction to enhance security and stability in the region.”
Beyond the Horizon is a U.S. Southern Command joint training
exercise that takes place annually in designated countries.
As the land service component to SOUTHCOM and the lead
executive agent, U.S. Army South works closely with partner nation armies in
Central and South America and the Caribbean to strengthen security cooperation
throughout the Western hemisphere.
The planning for
Beyond the Horizon 2016 in Guatemala began about 18 months
earlier, according to planners who said sharing knowledge and skills and
working together helps enhance partner nation capacity and the ability to
respond collectively to real-world threats.
Active, Reserve and National Guard forces are taking part,
as well as participants from Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Canada. The
majority of the U.S. participants rotate for several weeks at a time but there
are also some long-term duration staff.
Plans for this exercise include the completion of five
engineering projects – three medical clinics and two schools, giving service
members from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marines and Guatemalan forces the
opportunity to work together with governmental and non-governmental agencies.
But Dr. Marylin de Sosa, Guatemalan Ministry of Health
international cooperation coordinator saw the exercise as a much more important
opportunity for her country.
“There are problems in Guatemala because of corruption,” de
Sosa said. “We want to change that, but we can’t do it alone. There are too
many infrastructure and equipment problems and we can’t fix everything quickly.
But the population requires that we fix problems as quickly as we can because
there are people dying. We are very thankful for the help that’s being offered
through this program, especially the medical centers and all the equipment
that’s going to be in there as well.”
In addition to the planned construction projects, this
Beyond the Horizon exercise includes three medical assistance events that will
provide public health and preventative medicine, adult and pediatric medicine,
medical education, immunizations, and nutritional counseling as well as
dentistry to remote communities. Medical providers are prepared to treat up to
1,000 patients a day at each location.