With two shovels full of gravel and dirt, the ceremonial beginning of a three-month humanitarian project involving six countries and nearly 2,000 military and non-government organization personnel began April 9 in Estanzeulas, El Salvador.
Beyond the Horizon-El Salvador 2015 is a U.S. Army South-led, joint U.S. Southern Command and government of El Salvador exercise deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to El Salvador for training and to provide humanitarian services. The purpose of BTH is to conduct civic assistance and medical and engineering support to show U.S. support and commitment to El Salvador.
These projects will be completed working hand-in-hand with a variety of governmental and non-governmental agencies to provide medical and engineering support to local populations and receive valuable training.
"Beyond the Horizon is a cornerstone of our efforts to enhance relationships between partner nations in this region, and to provide service members from all participating armies the unique opportunity to gain valuable training while providing invaluable basic needs to the people of El Salvador," said Col. Greg Maxton, the Army South deputy chief of operations.
During the opening ceremony, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte, joined the Salvadoran Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. David Munguia, and several other prominent U.S. and Salvadoran representatives as they reaffirmed each country's civic duty toward the region.
"We're thrilled to have the military presence here. It really goes to strengthen and fortify the relationship between El Salvador and the United States," said Aponte. "It has always been a great military-to-military relationship and this exercise only makes it more profound."
Over the next three months, BTH 2015-El Salvador engineers will construct five schools and one medical clinic the areas of Sitio del Nino, San Juan Opico, Chalchuapa and Quezaltepeque, El Salvador.
"This exercise has a grand impact for the children of this region," said Munguia. "By building new schools, this mission will increase the capacity of children that these schools can serve. This will allow the children to concentrate better and give them an opportunity for a better education."
In addition, BTH medical personnel will conduct medical readiness training exercises in El Paste, Santa Lucia, Joya del Ceren and Nejepa, El Salvador. Each MEDRETE is expected to see between 600-800 patients per day and last 10 days. In total, the MEDRETES are expected to provide basic medical care to include general medicine, dental care and preventative medicine to nearly 24,000 Salvadorans during the exercise.
At the request of the Salvadoran government, Army South and BTH planners worked with the Salvadoran Ministries of Health and Education to identify areas of the country in need assistance with public health, preventative medicine, dental care, medical and nutritional education and basic immunizations.
"Health and education are vital building blocks toward improving the lives of a populace," said Maxton. "Through a series of medical readiness training exercises designed to improve health and the construction of our engineering projects to build and improve clinics and schools, we have demonstrated that the nations participating in this great exercise are invested in the future of this country."
In addition to providing assistance to the selected areas, another main focus of BTH is to provide participating service members the opportunity to train in austere environments while gaining the experience of working alongside multiple nations' militaries.
This year, The U.S. and El Salvador will partner with healthcare and engineering experts from Brazil, Canada, Chile and Colombia allowing each country's participants the opportunity to learn as well as teach other.
"This is truly a great opportunity for our soldiers from all countries to work side-by-side to do great things for this region," said Munguia.