Festus Guardsmen laid ground work for new clinic, school in Honduras

Engineers and heavy equipment operators from the Missouri National Guard’s Festus-based 220th Engineer Company arrived in Naco Cortes, Honduras for a two-week rotation and took part in the humanitarian mission Beyond the Horizon 2012-Honduras.  In Quimistan, Santa Barbara Soldiers make progress on the lot where a brand new modified three-room health clinic will sit. (Photo by 1st Sgt. Mary L. Williams, 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Engineers and heavy equipment operators from the Missouri National Guard's Festus-based 220th Engineer Company arrived in Naco Cortes, Honduras for a two-week rotation and took part in the humanitarian mission Beyond the Horizon 2012-Honduras. In Quimistan, Santa Barbara Soldiers make progress on the lot where a brand new modified three-room health clinic will sit. (Photo by 1st Sgt. Mary L. Williams, 70th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Mary L. Williams
ngmo.pao@us.army.mil

NACO CORTES, Honduras - A run down store and an old barn sat on the corner lot in the middle of town - what wasn't destroyed by a hurricane was recently torn down by the locals to make way for a new clinic.

As scheduled, two weeks ago engineers and heavy equipment operators from the Missouri National Guard's Festus-based 220th Engineer Company arrived in Naco Cortes, Honduras for a two-week rotation and took part in the humanitarian mission Beyond the Horizon 2012-Honduras.

In the bustling community of Quimistan, Santa Barbara onlookers stop throughout the day and watch as Soldiers make progress on the lot where a brand new modified three-room health clinic will sit.

"They're here to lay the groundwork and pour the foundation," said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Wickes, project manager and noncommissioned officer in charge - who will oversee the project from start to finish.

When it's complete, there will be three patient rooms, five offices, three baths, two waiting rooms and a kitchen, said Wickes.

The engineers and heavy equipment operators worked in teams of 12-20 Soldiers. In the first week, they leveled and graded the site and were nearly ready to pour the foundation.

"We filled in all the low spots," said Spc. Gary Chamberlain, a heavy equipment operator with the unit that specializes in horizontal construction. "We were there all day."

The team - made up of Soldiers from three platoons - spent a couple of days working at the site.

In the much smaller rural village of Micheletti, located in Naco Cortes, Soldiers made progress on the vacant lot where a two-room schoolhouse will soon be erected.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Vitale, project manager and noncommissioned officer in charge said he's received a warm welcome from the small community.

"They have welcomed us here, the mayor has been very happy and they're pretty excited about what we're doing," added Vitale, who is with the 294th Engineer Company based in Carthage.

The unit arrived in Honduras April 16 to scorching temperatures and in the two-week time frame they completed all the ground work, poured concrete and laid the foundation for the clinic and schoolhouse before the unit departed April 28.

Both projects are on a 10-week schedule, which puts construction at a projected completion date in July.

"We have factored in some float time in case of inclement weather and unexpected delays," said Capt. Timothy Biendenstin, who is with the Missouri National Guard's 35th Engineer Brigade out of Fort Leonard Wood and is the Task Force's engineer overseeing both projects. "They are right on schedule."

Nearing the end of the second week of work on both sites, both projects were on a tight timetable. Soldiers say they are keyed up about the progress and so is the community.

Sgt. Michael Boyce said the locals have watched their progress and expressed excitement. They even covered the boxes during a rain shower to ensure supplies wouldn't be damaged.

"The people in this community are very protective of the site," said Boyce. "We have a guard out here watching the site through the night and the community has someone out here sleeping in the hammock watching the guard through the night."

Staff Sgt. David Grass, with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion based in Cape Girardeau, was at the Micheletti site the last day the 220th would be working there.

Grass, whose a senior construction specialist back at home for the City of Cape Girardeau, has been in the construction field for some time and thinks projects such as these give the junior troops an opportunity to hone their skills.

"A lot of us have done this before - we let the younger guys get in and get the experience," said Grass. "We want to complete our mission but we also want to get the training in."

With this being a joint effort, service members from other branches will come through and build on what they've started. The mission involves National Guardsmen from 14 states, the Army Reserve, Navy Seabees, and the Air Force and works closely with host nation forces and civilian organizations.

The 220th is part of the 1140th Engineer Battalion, based in Cape Girardeau, which will send 274 soldiers on the mission, most on a two-week rotating basis. Other Missouri Guard units participating include the 1438th Engineer Company, of Macon and the 880th Engineer Team, based in Perryville.

The Beyond the Horizon - Honduras 2012 mission consists of the construction of two new schools, two new health clinics, and the renovation of one schoolhouse; as well as medical, dental and veterinary care in local communities during 12-weeks of rotations. Missouri's 35th Engineer Brigade is in Coban, Guatemala participating in Beyond the Horizon - Guatemala 2012.

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