By Tech. Sgt. Mark WyattApril 16, 2013
SONSONATE, El Salvador --Soldiers from the 160th Engineer Company, Delaware National Guard arrived here two weeks ago to begin work on constructing schools and latrines on three sites as part of Beyond the Horizon-El Salvador.
National Guard soldiers from Delaware and New Hampshire arrived March 30 and were met with challenges just as any large scale project experiences, but Joint Task Force Jaguar engineer planners were impressed with the progress.
"The first rotation did an outstanding job with the challenges that we had with contracting equipment and materials," said Capt. Paige Tattersall, Joint Task Force Jaguar engineer planner, New Hampshire National Guard. "From what they were given when they first got here on the ground March 30, they did phenomenally well."
Members of the 160th Engineer Company completed foundations at each of the sites and pouring concrete slabs on all but one.
Soldiers and airmen are here as part of BTH 2013, a humanitarian and civic assistance mission deploying military engineers and medical professionals to El Salvador for training and to provide humanitarian services.
The purpose of BTH is to conduct civil-military operations, including humanitarian civic assistance as well as medical, dental, engineering support by active duty, National Guard and Reserve service members.
"The benefits of this project are schools for children in areas such as Las Marias, a community that currently does not have a school," said Tattersall. "This project will give them a regional school to attend."
Children currently walk, in some cases, upwards of an hour to get to school.
At a reception recently, local community leaders expressed their gratitude to Salvadoran and U.S. soldiers who are working together to make the school a reality.
They also told the task force commander that a new school will prevent tragedies from happening like what happened two months ago.
"Two months ago a little girl was hit by a car and died [while] walking to the school because it is so far away," said Lt. Col. Raymond Valas, Joint Task Force Jaguar commander, New Hampshire National Guard. "There are no sidewalks and part of where they walk, the cars move pretty quickly."
Because of this incident, the task force has an even greater sense of purpose to make sure something like that never happens again, by working with the Salvadorans to build a school closer to home for the children as part of this BTH exercise.
"I wanted to be on this mission," said Tattersall, who participated in a BTH mission before. "Being able to walk away from something and know that you really did do something good is part of the experience of being in the National Guard, to be able to say that I really did help someone out, I really did do something for someone who really needed it."
The second rotation, scheduled to arrive April 13, will pick up where the last rotation left off in building the school.
"The next rotation will complete the third slab at the school and latrine and then they will begin putting up the walls," continued Tattersall. "Hopefully by the end of their rotation, they will have concrete poured in each of the walls as well as an additional latrine done."