By Mr. Robert Ramon, U.S. Army SouthApril 19, 2013
FORT SHERMAN, Panama (April 19) -- U.S. Army South marked the official start of Beyond the Horizon-Panama 2013 during a ceremony here April 17 where U.S. military engineers and medical professionals arrived to conduct real-world training while providing needed services to communities throughout the country.
"By working together, our service members will gain valuable experiences from Panama's civilian and security experts, ensuring that our forces are able to rapidly respond to support future emergency humanitarian and civic relief efforts," said Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, U.S. Army South deputy commanding general. "This exercise will strengthen our relationships and our ability to work together to meet future needs."
Along with Salinas, attendees for the ceremony included Jose Raul Mulino, Panamanian minister of public security and John Law, deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in Panama.
Beyond the Horizon 2013 is an exercise deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Panama and El Salvador for training, while providing humanitarian services to rural communities.
Beyond the Horizon, conducted annually, is part of U.S. Army South and U.S. Southern Command's (SOUTHCOM) humanitarian and civic assistance program. Working closely with host-nation forces and civilian organizations, BTH teams will provide medical, dental and engineering support.
These types of exercises are a major part of Army South's regional engagement efforts and afford the opportunity to train service members while providing needed services to communities throughout the region. The relationships built and sustained assist in building security and stability in the region.
"We share mutual interests and I've seen all the good that comes from our long-standing partnership with the United States," said Mulino during the ceremony.
During the four-month exercise, smaller medical readiness training exercises (MEDRETEs) take place, which consist of a team of military medical and dental professionals who work in austere areas to gain valuable military experience, while also providing medical services to people in need of treatment.
Previous BTH MEDRETEs have provided care to hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.
"We're looking forward to working with our partners in conducting medical, dental and engineering programs throughout the provinces of Colon, Veraguas and Darien," said Salinas.
According to Salinas, the strong support from not only the Panamanian government, but the Colombian government, which sent medical professionals to support BTH-Panama, is a reason this year's BTH exercise is expected to be more successful than ever before.
"We will be able to offer care to more patients than we have in our past missions thanks to the effort and support of our partners from Colombia and the Panamanian health care providers who are expecting to receive about 1,000 patients per day at each of our MEDRETE sites," said Salinas.
In addition to medical care, the United States, in cooperation with the Government of Panama, has coordinated for the completion of various engineering projects in Escobal and Achiote in Colon Province. U.S. Army and Air Force engineers will construct a new health promotion center and dormitory at Escobal Clinic, in addition to renovating parts of the existing clinic. They will also construct a roof over the highschool's basketball court. In Achiote, the engineers will construct a new clinic and bathroom for the adjacent school.
Mulino, a native of Colon Province, said he knows well what BTH-Panama will mean to the local citizens.
"I grew up in Colon and can already see the huge positive impact this exercise will have on its citizens," said Mulino. "I appreciate our strong partnership with the U.S. and know that it will ultimately benefit us all."
Salinas said it's about people helping others, no matter what their nationality.
"It's people helping people," said Salinas. "We are nations with common interests, proud of the accomplishments we have made together and ready to assume greater interaction in the future. We have come together to focus on common goals and exercises such as Beyond the Horizon which give us the opportunity to accomplish these goals."
Army South has planned and conducted BTHs since 2008 in multiple countries such as the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Honduras. The exercise is scheduled to be conducted in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala in 2014. Each BTH typically involves and trains about 1,400 U.S. service members and 150 host-nation personnel.