PUERTO LEMPIRA, Honduras - –
A delegation consisting of 14 members from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Southern Command and Joint Task Force-Bravo, both stationed at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, met with Honduran leaders in Puerto Lempira June 18, 2015, to discuss the Marines' upcoming construction projects throughout Gracias a Dios Department.
The visit enabled Honduran and U.S. members to discuss the construction plans, answer questions, determine support requirements and build relationships between
"It was productive in that it gave us a level of confidence that they are very receptive to us being here...and will be very supportive of the missions, the Marines and the Sailors while we're out here," said Lt. Col. David Hudak, SPMAGTF-SC commander.
The MAGTF consists of 280 Marines and Sailors on a temporary deployment for U.S. Southern Command, in coordination with U.S. partner nations. Scheduled to remain in Honduras until November 2015, the MAGTF will do construction projects and conduct military-to-military training. They will also operate in Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Thursday's visit began with an introduction from the Governor of Gracias a Dios, Alberto Haylock, who was joined by the Mayor of Puerto Lempira, Eduardo Chow; the Ministry of Education representative for Gracias a Dios, Marilyn Bendles; the Joint Task Force-Paz Garcia Commander, Col. Jose Garcia Maradiaga; and the Gracias a Dios Police Chief, Nahun Hernandez Escobar.
"On behalf of the President, welcome to Gracias a Dios," Haylock said. "We, too, are here to listen."
During the meeting, Hudak introduced the plans for a school the Marines will construct in Puerto Lempira, beginning next week. The Marines also plan to build two additional schools, along with a road and runway construction project.
"Thank you for the help you'll be providing," Bendles said. She inquired about the possibility of future projects, noting that some classes are taught under trees and that the rainy season presents a concern for Ministry of Education officials.
The Honduran party asked multiple times whether they could provide the Marines further support, to include offering additional parking and lodging space.
"(They were) very open and welcoming with doing what they can to enable the construction of these schools," Hudak said. "We look forward to it being a reciprocal relationship--we will help them and they will help us in accomplishing what we set out to do."
Other members of the U.S. party included incoming JTF-Bravo leadership who, like Hudak, were visiting Gracias a Dios for the first time.
"It was certainly very informative and educational for me to see the commitment of the local municipal leaders to improving the conditions for the people that they represent and the people that they serve," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James Trachier, JTF-Bravo deputy commander.
"This is my first trip to the region, and for me it's personally gratifying to know that our efforts are appreciated--but that's not the point," Trachier said. "The real importance of these projects is they will help ensure future generations of Honduran children receive a better education, which in turn gives them a greater opportunity to become a new generation of teachers, doctors, and government officials. This is a long-term investment in the citizens of Gracias a Dios and represents America's commitment to building partner capacity in Honduras and throughout Central America."
The visit to Puerto Lempira concluded with a tour of the JTF-Paz Garcia base.