SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (May 19, 2015) -- In an effort to provide engineering and medical assistance to the citizens of El Salvador, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, along with partner nation counterparts, are participating in the U.S. Army South-led Beyond the Horizon humanitarian mission here, until June.
Beyond the Horizon is a humanitarian and civic assistance mission to show the U.S. government's commitment to El Salvador and the region while providing real-world training to U.S. participants. More than 1,800 U.S. Service members are participating in this year's event, with most on two-week rotations. Chile, Colombia, Canada and Brazil also have representatives contributing to the exercise.
There are six projects taking place, which include the construction of schools and medical clinics. In addition, medical and veterinary teams are providing care in four locations throughout the region. U.S. Soldiers and partner nation representatives, working side-by-side, are gaining valuable experience by building together, treating patients and teaching each other best practices.
At the medical treatment sites, doctors, nurses and medics, along with assistance from local medical professionals, are providing a host of care to include dental, optometry, preventative medicine and pharmaceutical support.
"We are here to provide medical care to the Salvadoran people," said Maj. Bryan Gray, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, New Hampshire Army National Guard. "It's wonderful to provide the relief. We are seeing about 100 patients an hour over the course of a nine-hour day. We will be at this location for a week and then move to another location for a week."
Beyond the Horizon seeks to build on the partnership between the United States and El Salvador through cooperation and training. Officials from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Southern Command select the countries, which request support for Beyond the Horizon based on a number of factors, including the needs of the population, the training benefit of proposed projects and the cost. El Salvador and Panama are the recipient nations for this year's Beyond the Horizon.
"This is the first time I've come here for a humanitarian relief mission," said Staff Sgt. Shea Ahern, a medic with the New Hampshire National Guard. "This is really great. The amount we are able to do for these people is incredible. The most rewarding part of this is to see the smiles of both the young and old."
As one patient explained, medical treatment can sometimes be difficult to access in the Central American country.
"I was seen for blood sugar, because I have diabetes," said Moises Armando Regalado, a 52-year-old local man. "This is really good. It's important for the community, because sometimes the clinic can cost too much and they often can't provide the care I need."
Along with providing medical assistance, construction is also a big part of the exercise. U.S. military engineers are building schools and treatment facilities throughout the region in cooperation with Salvadoran military engineers to learn from one another and to create a better learning environment in areas of need.
"We are doing construction projects here and right now we are working on this school," said Sgt. Brian Jackson, carpenter, 994th Engineer Company, Colorado Army National Guard. "The heat is probably the biggest challenge, but building schools for the locals here is very rewarding. This is a great experience that we can come here and do this for these people."
Like their U.S. counterparts, Salvadoran soldiers find the experience gratifying.
"I'm very proud to work with the Soldiers from the United States," said Pvt. Oswaldo Rivera Ramirez, construction worker in the Salvadoran army. "I've learned a lot from the U.S. Soldiers. They have a method to building this [school construction], and it was new for me. I'm very appreciative of what [U.S. Service members] are doing here in El Salvador."