By 1st Lt. John Quin, 70th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJuly 6, 2012
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (Army News Service, July 6, 2012) -- As U.S. Army South's Beyond the Horizon 2012 exercise draws closer to the finish line, engineers here are putting in a final effort to take on and complete new tasks.
In San Pedro Sula, Missouri National Guardsmen recently took on a renovation project at the Centenario Jose Trinidad Cabanas School. They are now doing tasks that include installing insulation for a cafeteria and fixing electrical wiring, said Sgt. Joseph Broach, of the 220th Engineer Company, based out of Festus, Mo.
"It's been a humbling experience," said Broach, who lives in Jackson, Mo. "Back home, our schools have a lot of things. Here, we're helping to build a cafeteria just so the kids can have lunch at school."
The team is in Honduras as part of U.S. Army South's Beyond the Horizon 2012 exercise. The exercise gives service members training in their military career fields while conducting humanitarian aid missions. Often, though, Soldiers find themselves going outside their traditional skill sets to lend a helping hand.
That was the case with the team's translator, Staff Sgt. Frances Lopez, of Miami, Fla., who stepped up to help out with the construction.
"We built a bench," said Lopez, who serves with the 260th Military Intelligence Battalion. "They're just made out of some extra two-by-fours and nails, but the kids love them."
After a quiet weekend for the crew, students returned to class, July 2. Outside the job site, hundreds of children in blue and white uniforms wandered around the courtyard during recess.
In addition to the engineers, Oklahoma National Guard Maj. Michael Mannes, who helped coordinate the renovation project through a friend in the Honduran army's 105th Infantry Brigade, brought something special for the children: a basketball and two soccer balls. Whenever the kids had a break, Mannes and the engineers would take a few minutes to shoot some hoops with them.
The children's presence was a big morale boost, said Spc. Jesse Dean, who lives in Rolla, Mo., and serves with the 220th.
"The mood is really 'chillaxed,'" Dean said. "We've gotten a lot done, but we've also taken breaks to play with the kids, too."
Team medic Spc. John Sexton, an Army Reservist with the 94th Combat Support Hospital who lives in Segoville, Texas, said the children were very well behaved.
"They know to stay out of the work areas, but outside they're very friendly," Sexton said. "They're all having fun. They are really appreciative of what we're doing."
The school's faculty also showed their support for the engineers' work.
"The school's been great," Broach said. "The lady who owns the snack bar next door made us lunch, and the teachers pitched in and bought us t-shirts as a thank you gift."