SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Construction resumed in earnest April 14, as rotation two continued to work on the projects that the first rotation of U.S. Army engineers had started at several sites around the Comayagua and La Paz areas as part of the joint nation, joint service exercise Beyond the Horizon 2008.
In the city of Comayagua, members of the 322nd Engineer Company of Decorah, Iowa, work together with Honduran Army engineers to build new walls within the Jose Trinidad School. They stay busy mixing cement to hold the concrete blocks together and are constantly checking to insure that the wall they are currently constructing remains level.
This urban school is still in session and the voices of the children as they attend classes are usually louder than the sounds of the construction happening just a few feet away.
Because children are on site, orange safety fences and constant supervision are necessary to keep the children out of harm's way as the Soldiers complete their work.
About fifteen miles away, similar construction is taking place at the La Granja work site.
Located in a rural area, the work here is part demolition and part construction. The walls of the existing schoolhouse were deemed unsafe and the school is being dismantled by members of the 801st Engineer Company of Vallejo, Calif.
Half of the existing school has already been demolished. Spc. Alonzo Grey and Sgt. Kenneth Goodson busy themselves by removing usable fixtures such as the blackboard from the remaining room before it too is knocked down.
Another cost cutting measure that the construction team hopes to accomplish, in addition to salvaging useable fixtures such as the blackboard, is the disposal of the old bricks and tin roof of the old school. The construction team has offered to let the residents come and take what they can use for free, pending the mayor's approval.
"We'd like to give the bricks and the tin off the roof to the locals to use for their flooring in their homes or whatever," said U.S. Army Sgt. Frederick Jones, "We're happy to let them have it."
If the mayor agrees, the Soldiers will have the residents form a line outside the construction zone and then distribute the materials to them in a safe manner.
Members of the 322nd are at this job site as well; constructing a new latrine behind the school. The Concrete floor has already been laid, but with temperatures reaching the mid-nineties every day, the engineers are concerned with the cement drying too quickly. This could cause the concrete to crack, so Spc. Robert Magsamen dons what he calls his 'Ghost Buster' outfit: a back pack water container; and sprays the new flooring liberally to prevent such an event.
At nearby La Merced, members of the 1022nd Engineer Company of Bossier City, La. are busy preparing a new latrine and schoolroom for concrete pouring.
Master Sgt. Brent Barnett operates a backhoe to carry dirt and then spread and even that dirt out for the school's new floor as other U.S. and Honduran Soldiers remove rocks and smooth out the floors for the new latrine there with shovels, rakes and pick axes.
Capt. Rachelle Hathaway of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion from Miami is also on site to coordinate a contract with a local vendor utilizing the interpretation skills of Sgt. Jose Reyes. Civil Affairs teams serve as the primary coordination interface between U.S. military forces and the civil sector. Often, this involves activities such as communicating military activities with civil leaders, arranging contracts between local vendors and the Beyond the Horizon contractor pay office, and facilitating engagement activities with the local populace and the BTH, Joint Task Force-Bravo (Soto Cano Air Base), and U.S. Embassy public affairs offices.
Another new latrine is also being constructed at the school in Las Mesas. More members of the 322nd are busying laying the water and sewage pipes to a new septic tank there.
Sgt. Jacob Patzner explains the progress being made, "We've dug the leech field for water drain-off and are laying the pipes now."
Patzner checks the trenches dug by Pfc. Joshua Winicki with a laser level to insure that the trenches are level before placing any pipes into them. The pipes will be laid and then Patzner will await approval from the quality assurance inspectors before cementing the pipes together.
Patzner also said of the construction of a nearby storage shed and latrine, "All of the buildings are prefabricated steel buildings and we should be able to complete them by the end of our rotation." Many Soldiers were working on the buildings frames, tightening tension wires as he spoke.
The first rotation of engineers had removed and replaced the school's old windows before they redeployed. The 322nd then put in new glass panes during their first few days at the site.
Patzner is confident that all construction at Las Mesas will be finished by the end of the 322nd's rotation.
Even if it isn't, there are three more rotations to follow and they are sure to be just as eager to work as the engineers before them, completing the work that needs to be finished and starting new projects of their own.