NACO CORTEZ, Honduras (April 21, 2012) -- The Missouri Army National Guard this week took part in the U.S. Army South and host-nation opening ceremonies for Beyond the Horizon 2012.

Festivities took place in both Honduras and Guatemala, where Missouri Guardsmen are slated to conduct real-world missions and provide humanitarian services. Beyond the Horizon 2012 is a U.S. Army South exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals to Guatemala and Honduras for training, while providing services to rural communities. Conducted annually, these missions are part of U.S. Southern Command's humanitarian and civic assistance program.

This year, the Missouri National Guard is running both task forces. Task Force Tropic, which is headed by the 1140th Engineer Battalion out of Cape Girardeau, took part in an opening ceremony on its base in Naco Cortez, Honduras, earlier in the week.

Task Force Arriero, which is headed by Missouri National Guard's 35th Engineer Brigade, of Fort Leonard Wood, followed with participation in an opening ceremony in Coban, Guatemala. Both ceremonies signify the start of projects in various communities.

Working closely with host-nation forces and civilian organizations, in addition to providing engineering and construction services, both task forces will also provide medical and dental readiness exercises for the benefit of the local population in Honduras and Guatemala.

Being tasked with both missions is the result of the Missouri Guard's long-standing working relationship with U.S. Army South.

"The Missouri National Guard is well suited for both Beyond the Horizon missions," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard. "This experience further helps prepare our Soldiers to rapidly respond in support of emergency relief efforts and provides an excellent venue for real-world training."

Task Force Tropic is led by Lt. Col. Robert Jones. He will oversee the construction of two new schools, two new health clinics, and the renovation of one schoolhouse; as well as medical, dental and veterinary humanitarian assistance during 12 weeks of rotations.

"As requested by Honduras, the BTH team will provide focused humanitarian services to areas throughout the country," said Jones, who will oversee two medical, one dental and two veterinary readiness exercises. "Specifically these services include public health and preventive medicine, dental care, adult and pediatric medicine, medical education, immunizations, and nutritional counseling."

Much of the initial preparation for construction is underway.

"I welcomed the first rotation earlier this week; they are dedicated and hard at work," said Jones, who added that he is very proud of the duration and Honduran staff, and rotational units who are integral in the planning process and making this a successful mission. "This is a great opportunity for them to train and take part in providing needed services to communities throughout the region."

Lt. Col. John Findley, who is leading task Force Arriero, is overseeing the construction of a school and a clinic which is underway, as well as a roof replacement on a clinic and a bathroom renovation at another clinic over the next three months.

"I'm very excited to be here in such a beautiful country working with the people of Guatemala," said Findley, who lives in Eldon, Mo. "These medical and engineering exercises will demonstrate our commitment to fostering cooperative partnerships."

The first rotation of Missouri Guardsmen funneled into both countries and has begun work at various sites. Soldiers on two-week rotation are employing their specific military skills as engineers, surveyors, heavy-equipment operators and mechanics. Soldiers will continue to rotate in every two weeks to perform their jobs. And projects in both countries are expected to be completed in July.

Guardsmen have been in Honduras and Guatemala for several weeks prior to opening ceremonies as part of the duration team where they have been prepping for the arrival of service members from all branches rotating in to support the mission.

The task forces coordinate the Missouri National Guard's operations in Honduras and Guatemala with government and non-government organizations to include other state National Guard participants, the U.S. Army, Army Reserve, Navy and Air Force, the host nation's army, air force, police, and other governmental agencies and humanitarian groups.