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New Horizons team builds structures faster

  • Published
  • By Capt. Holly Hess
New Horizons' construction teams continue construction on classrooms located throughout Belize using a fast, stay-in-place concrete wall forming system.

The teams are building four structures to be used as classrooms located in Ladyville, Crooked Tree and two in Orange Walk Town. The forming system is currently being used to construct three of them.

Training is one of the primary objectives of the New Horizons exercise, and the teams are using this opportunity to learn how to construct buildings with a different method than what they have used previously.

Prior to coming to Belize, the 823rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers Squadron built a small section of wall with the concrete wall forming system as part of a troop training project for the Army 10th Special Forces Group prior to deploying. The project provided an opportunity to compare the concrete wall forming system to building with the traditional concrete masonry unit block.

According to 1st Lt. Joseph Miller, Orange Walk project engineer from the 820th RED HORSE Squadron, the concrete wall forming system is a faster way to construct a building.

"It is a lot quicker and requires less labor than a block wall," said Miller.

He also stated block buildings require a lot of labor, whereas the concrete wall forming system consists of panels that are slid into place and filled with concrete.

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wiest, structural supervisor from the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, also believes this method is quicker and more visually appealing.

"It is a lot faster because everything comes preassembled," he said. "It looks a lot better in the end. Because you have a smooth texture finish all the way across that is already filled with concrete.

Besides the benefits of fast construction and aesthetics, the concrete wall forming system also has the benefit of being as strong as a traditional block concrete building.

"It is a very strong building. When you are done, essentially, you have an 8-inch thick concrete wall," said Miller. "The (concrete wall forming system) panels act as forms on the inside and outside, and it leaves a nice looking finish."

Forms are a means to hold concrete in place to create a desired shape to provide strength or appearance to a structure.

Buildings constructed using the concrete wall forming system are useful in locations that need buildings constructed quickly, such as deployed locations and contingency environments.

"Block buildings will take several weeks to setup and lay all the block and get them all mortared in," said Miller. "With the (concrete wall forming system), you can ... get the pieces setup including all the (reinforcing steel bar) and bracing in a week, and it takes a day or so to fill it with concrete.

"This is very valuable. This is something we can all take back and hopefully have it as a viable alternative in situations where we are looking at a block building, but we are under a time crunch," he said. "We can use (the concrete wall forming system) to get it done quicker."

One of the structures in Orange Walk Town, built at Trial Farm Government School, is planned to be approximately 5,000 square feet, consisting of four classrooms, a teacher's planning area, and a bathroom.

The construction team consists of service members from the Air Force 820th and 823rd RED HORSE Squadrons, the Marine Corps, the Army National Guard, and the Belize Defence Force Light Engineer Company working together and sharing their training experience.

"We are really fortunate to have a crew of (Belize Defence Force) engineers that have done this before," said Miller. "They've been able to show us the ropes as far as getting things done quicker or easier."

Belize Defence Force Pvt. Francis Henkis, from the Light Engineer Company, believes this training is beneficial to many involved.

"It is valuable to everybody. Because ... it will be a better environment for the kids so they can sit in a class," he said. "It is good working with these guys. They learn from us, and we learn from them."

Once complete, the new building located at Trial Farm Government School will hold approximately 100 students.

New Horizons is a U.S. Southern Command exercise that gives U.S., Canadian and Belizean personnel an opportunity to train jointly in an exercise setting, in order to be prepared to meet future challenges. The exercise began April 1 and is scheduled to run until June 30. Personnel are also providing medical care, dental care and performing surgeries as part of the training.