CAMP MAUSICA, Trinidad - A few miles south from the hustle and bustle that is the Port of Spain, a small yet powerful gathering of military and government officials celebrated their continuing partnership Mar. 26, a partnership between both a powerful nation and a small Caribbean country merely 45 years old.

During the opening ceremony marking the official beginning of Beyond the Horizon 2008 (BTH), distinguished Trinidad and Tobago government officials showed their support for the relatively new partnership.

BTH 2008 is a multinational and U.S. joint services military exercise that includes humanitarian and civic assistance projects in Trinidad and Tobago during most of the summer. Sponsored by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and planned, organized and supervised by U.S. Army South, BTH missions are designed to foster goodwill and improve relations between U.S. and Caribbean nations in support of SOUTHCOM's Partnership for the Americas program.

U.S. military medical and dental professionals from various active duty and reserve forces including the Texas Army National Guard, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, plan to assist Trinidadians in rural areas who have limited health care. Construction projects involving personnel from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Navy Seabees, the Marine Corps and engineers from the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force will construct and make renovations to health clinics, two schools and an orphanage.

The combination of American and T&T military personnel is known collectively as the Partnership for the Americas Engagement Team (PAET) - Caribbean. Together, these medical and engineer professionals will improve the quality of life for the citizens of the small island nation.

During his opening ceremony speech, Dr. Roy L. Austin, United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, said the militaries of both partner nations will benefit greatly from working together during the missions.

"The U.S. military will operate side-by-side with the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force, even as the embassy and civilian government ministries maintain an active dialogue on these projects," said Ambassador Austin. "Activities will include the exchange of construction and technical expertise ... as part of the state partnership program between (Trinidad) and the Delaware National Guard."

The Commanding Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard, Group Captain Kent Moore, said BTH 2008 is a continuation of similar construction and health care projects successfully undertaken in 1992, 1993, 1997 and 2000. He emphasized that this year's projects are evidence of the excellent tradition that has already been established.

SOUTHCOM, which oversees all U.S. military activities in Latin America and the Caribbean, has a long-term commitment to the governments of Caribbean-island nations and the entire region.

U.S. Army South Col. Robert Casias, the commander of PAET-Caribbean, said the primary focus of BTH 2008 is to build Trinidad and Tobago's capabilities to enhance security there and throughout the region.

"We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working alongside our defense force partners to make that focus a reality," Casias said proudly.

For more information, contact the U.S. Army South Public Affairs Office at (210) 295-6693.