By Sgt. Debra CookJune 25, 2018
EL SALVADOR - The United States' military continuously participates in civic and humanitarian efforts around the world in an effort to increase partner nation capabilities and promote regional stability. The Florida National Guard has a footprint in these missions. This year the call to serve came in larger and later than expected for participation in Beyond the Horizon 2018 (BTH 2018), a humanitarian mission involving five medical readiness exercises and five construction projects over a three-month time period in El Salvador.
The Massachusetts Army National Guard was originally assigned as Task Force Engineer Command for BTH 2018, but unforeseen missions took precedence and the engineering unit had to quickly adjust to make building four new schools and a medical clinic possible.
The process of taking on the mission began with Maj. Gen. Mark Stammer, U.S. Army South Commander, calling Brig. Gen. Mike Canzoneri, Assistant Adjutant General, Florida Army National Guard, a former teammate on a previous deployment.
Canzoneri accepted the call to action, and the Florida National Guard was aligned to assist Task Force Hope.
"Our state was busy as well, so we didn't necessarily have a formation that we could just pick and send. We just had to start picking people that were qualified to come do this mission," said Col. Dwayne Jarriel, Florida Army National Guard BTH 2018 Task Force Engineer Commander. "We were told that this mission for El Salvador had been planned for two years. We didn't get the luxury of that. We had thirty days to get ready and deploy. It's been complicated, but we're helping everybody out."
Active-duty Army and Air Force units and personnel, the Reserve Component, and National Guard units will rotate in every two to three weeks over 90 days with the intent to provide fully functional schools and a clinic ready for occupancy by August.
Multiple rotations bring unique challenges for the engineers, and timing is critical to ensure the projects are completed on schedule. For example, the first three rotations bring staff qualified to pour concrete. If there is a delay in construction beyond the third rotation, the Engineering Task Force element will have to reach out to the correct qualified personnel to come back again.
"We came with the intent to be a liaison between the task force and the rotational units coming in to ensure the projects got done. Since we've been here, that mission has evolved from oversight to FOB construction, maintenance, and supporting the medical exercise with handicap ramps," Jarriel said. "Unexpected missions like that just come up, but we have been able to, in all cases, pull host nation El Salvador engineers to join missions. We also have El Salvador engineers on all of our project sites with our rotational units and they are learning as we learn."
Even with the hurdles presented, Jarriel remains confident. "We'll finish because we're engineers and when we're given a task we finish it."
"It was an effort for us to get here. It's a lot of work," said Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Topping, BTH 2018 Task Force Engineer Senior Enlisted Leader, Florida Army National Guard. "But at the end of the day it is a combined joint effort to build four schools, a medical clinic, and provide med ready sites for the people of El Salvador. To see the faces on the kids we are building the schools for and the people at the clinics getting the medical attention they need makes it all worth it. That's why we're here."