SARRAX-OCH, Guatemala (May 17, 2012) – Nearly 40 Soldiers from the 203rd Engineer Battalion started their two-week rotation Monday to build a new facility for a school in Sarrax-Och, Guatemala.
The project is part of the Beyond the Horizon Guatemala 2012 mission, a partnership exercise led by the Missouri National Guard.
BTH 2012 is a U.S. Army South planned exercise that deploys military engineers and medical professionals to Guatemala for training, while providing services to rural communities. BTHs are conducted annually in the U.S Southern Command area of responsibility and are part of its humanitarian and civic assistance program.
During their rotation, the Soldiers will continue the work that was started by two previous rotations, Sgt. Jason Maness said. The first rotation laid the foundation for the new facility, the second rotation stood the walls and the current rotation is scheduled to put on a roof.
“I like getting out here and representing the United States,” Maness said. “We’re not just world police as some people view us. We like to get out here and help people get up to a standard we’re at and to make life a little better for them.”
Maness, of Joplin, also spent four months in Guatemala in 2007 on a similar mission, in which Missouri Guardsmen built three schools and two medical clinics in San Marcos.
The Soldiers of the 203rd will also build a new bathroom and renovate an old school facility that had inadequate roofing. Renovation plans for the old building include new roofs for the kitchen and bathroom as well as a new oven for the kitchen. The new facility is a separate building next to the old building.
“The second rotation set the wooden forms and poured the concrete for the walls for the new facility,” 1st Sgt. Stephen Bradley said, adding that the wooden forms hold and shape the walls. “Now we’re pulling the forms and cleaning the interior and exterior walls.”
Spc. James Arrant, along with most of the other Soldiers who are a part of the current rotation, went to Germany last year for his annual training to pour concrete for helicopter pads. It is his first time in Central America.
“I think it’s always good to help people, whether it’s in the United States or Guatemala,” Arrant said, “It doesn’t matter where, as long as you’re improving lives, it’s a good thing.”
The Missouri National Guard will remain in Guatemala until mid-July when the construction projects — four others in addition to the one at Sarrax-Och — and four medical readiness missions will conclude.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.