NACO CORTES, Honduras (May 10, 2012) -- Three construction sites with different land features have made for a perfect real-world training opportunity for a survey team.

A four-person Missouri Army National Guard survey team from the 35th Engineer Brigade out of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., has honed their Soldiers' skills during a recent three-week deployment to Naco Cortes, Honduras, in support of Beyond the Horizon - Honduras 2012.

The team is easy to spot as they depart the forward operating base each morning headed out to a construction site. They're loading the bus with a sighting level, tripod and stadia rod -- standard surveying equipment. The parcels of land they will survey are baron or have been cleared of any existing structures. They know it's a tight schedule and that before the engineers begin work, the land is first surveyed.

"When we got here we took initial surveys to get started," said Spc. Brandon Beaty, a surveyor with the team. "We've been to all but one site so far."

They all agreed participating in BTH 2012 is a good training opportunity, especially since they have varying levels of expertise and rely heavy on each other to fill in.

"I just came out of school and a lot of what we're doing here I recently trained on," said Beaty, who has worked as a surveyor in his civilian career.

Like many other specialties in the military, surveyors have also gone automated but this team say they don't have the luxury of an automated system available to crunch numbers and provide the topography.

"Normally we would use a geodimeter 5600 to survey," Beaty said.

"It's a sensitive item," added Sgt. Christopher Polston, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the small team.

"It just takes a lot more time doing it this way -- including the math," added Beaty.

On this morning they headed to Quimistan, Santa Barbara, where they used surveying equipment to gather topographical information that will be used to help the engineers' layout and build a three-room modified health clinic.

They are revisiting the site, "We're making sure the building is going to fit," said Spc. Dru Luckey, a member of the team who has four years of service.

By the second week on the ground, the team has visited the sites at least once and studied the land enough to commit features from each site to memory.

"Quimistan is closest to a perfect site," said team member Spc. David Arnold, noting the better the ground, the easier it is to survey. "One of the other sites hadn't been grubbed out; there were a lot of brush and pot holes."

Having different terrain features on each site to contend with, Polston says he's honing his skills on this mission and "it's definitely a learning experience."

Surveyors are a much needed asset to the building and construction process, said Sgt. Maj. Scott Mayer, the Task Force sergeant major who is also a member of the 35th Engineer Bde.

"They are the starting point. They take the overall site plan and they put the picture on the ground for the engineers to come in do the work."

Staff Sgt. Courtney is an engineer with the 220th Engineer Company based out of Festus, Mo. He is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the crew from his unit on two-week rotation laying the foundation for the health clinic at Quimistan.

"We're ready to start, but first I need to know how close to grade we are," said Courtney, whose mission is to lay the foundation and pour the concrete slab before they depart.

Each parcel of land will soon be home to a clinic or a schoolhouse. In addition to the clinic in Quimistan and the schoolhouse in Micheletti, they also surveyed the parcel of land in La Lima which will become the Flores de Oriente health clinic.

Once the site is surveyed and staked out, the grading which includes making the height and shape of the land conform to the surveyor's stakes and physical leveling began. When the building site has been made level, excavation for the foundation work started.

Beyond the Horizon Honduras 2012 is an Army South exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals to Honduras for training, while providing services to rural communities. Beyond the Horizon teams participate in a valuable training opportunity and provide medical, dental and engineering support.

Today the surveyors are headed home having completed their task.

"For the survey team this was a valuable opportunity as a group to use their skills and training," said Mayer. "They've worked on ranges and some other projects back in the state but this give them the opportunity to travel and work in a different environment that is not always perfect."

All the projects are on a 10-week schedule, which puts construction at a projected completion date in July.

With this being a joint effort, Service members from other branches will come through and build on what they've started. The mission involves National Guardsmen from 14 states, the Army Reserve, Navy Seabees, and the Air Force and works closely with host nation forces and civilian organizations.

The mission consists of the construction of two new schools, two new health clinics, and the renovation of one schoolhouse; as well as medical, dental and veterinary care in local communities during 12-weeks of rotations. Missouri's 35th Engineer Brigade is in Coban, Guatemala participating in Beyond the Horizon -- Guatemala 2012.

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.myspace.com/missouri_ng; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.moguard.com/blog; www.pinterest.com/monationalguard/

Page last updated Thu May 10th, 2012 at 00:00