306th Engineer Company (Vertical) puts on the finishing touches during "BTH 2014"
June 4, 2014
PESCADARIA, Dominican Republic - Inside the newly built school house, Staff Sgt. Obadiah Petteway stared at the walls and windows. After a long pause he turned to the Soldiers watching him, his booming voice commands, "we have some work to do here."
The work is to put the finishing touches on a two-room school being built as part of Beyond the Horizon 2014, a bilateral exercise that focuses on improving the infrastructure of and relationships with partner nations in Barahona Province, Dominican Republic.
Surrounded by banana trees and grazing cattle, the small village of Pescaddaría will be the job site for Pettaway and 14 other Soldiers of 4th Platoon from the United States Army Reserve's 306th Engineer Company (Vertical) located in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Next to the school is a small plywood sunshade covered by camouflage netting. Dubbed the "command post" the shaded area is where the engineers will review building plans, store tools and take a break from the sun. The walls are covered with the hand drawn patches, mottos and unit crests from engineer units on previous rotations. These units completed most of the work but the Soldiers of 4th Platoon have only 10 days to finish. They will complete the new school by caulking windows, hanging doors, hooking up electric, surface masonry and pour a concrete sidewalk.
"Our mission is to get the school house complete and ready to turn over to the department of education by the end of our rotation," said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Morales, a high school teacher from Hampstead, N.Y., and noncommissioned officer in charge of the job site. "As a teacher it's great for me to help complete a school that will give the Dominicans an opportunity for an education."
The engineers are a mix of electricians, carpenters and equipment operators, and have one thing in common, to get the school complete.
"I want quality on this job, it's not how fast we do it, but how good we do it," said Petteway. "We want to have a building that we are proud of and the locals are proud of."
Despite the heat and humidity the engineers started work immediately. The sound of scraping, cleaning and heavy equipment could be heard all across the job site.
When lunch time arrived so did some of the Pescaddaria locals. A fresh batch of chicken empanadas and Coke introduced the engineers to local flavors.
"The community has been very welcoming," said ROTC Cadet Jorge Restrepo, a student at St. Johns University and officer in charge of the job site. "We have been treated like guests since we arrived and the food is awesome, too."
By mid-afternoon the windows were caulked, doors removed so jams could be fixed and concrete block walls were being smoothed.
"We have already made a lot of progress and it's only our first day,' said Morales looking around the job site.
The mission is the first time many of the Soldiers have left the United States.
"This is a great mission and we are lucky to have been selected," said Morales. "Being in the Dominican Republic is great for the Soldiers because it opens their minds to other things. They see how others live and get to create something that is a bridge between the U.S. and the D.R. (Dominican Republic)."
With a new perspective on Dominican life and a respect for the heat, the Soldiers cleaned up, put tools away and boarded the bus for the drive back to base.
"Today was a good day, when we're done building this school we can come back in 20 years and it will still be here," said Morales. "And that's a good feeling."