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New Horizons Airmen, Marines spend a day at Panamanian school

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • New Horizons Panama 2010 Public Affairs
More than a dozen Airmen and Marines from Task Force New Horizons spent a day with local children at the elementary school in Sansonsito, July 12, building rubber-band airplanes and playing games.

According to Lisbeth Acosta Corella, the school's director, the service members were a welcome addition to the day.

"When the children found out the (U.S. service members) were coming, they were very excited," she said through an interpreter. "Today, they are ecstatic - all are very happy (the service members) came."

Mrs. Corella explained that the school invited parents and visitors to the school in preparation for a Panamanian national "Children's Holiday" July 18. While school children played games and constructed the rubber-band planes, parents and teachers sold food to raise funds for activities during the upcoming holiday.

"I like model airplanes," said 7-year-old Javier Brago, a student at Sansonsito. "I've never had one before, so I think I'm going to keep it."

Javier's enthusiasm was shared by Pfc. Juan Romero, a civil affairs Marine deployed from the 4th Civil Affairs Group in Washington D.C, and Tech. Sgt. Dorothy Lanthier, a personnel specialist deployed from 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City, N.J.

"The children seemed to like working with us to put the planes together," Sergeant Lanthier said, "and just to see their faces when they launched the planes made my day. It makes it so much easier to be away from my family to see that we're really making a difference here."

Pfc. Romero and the civil affairs Marines from the 4th CAG made the visit possible. As civil affairs specialists, the CAG Marines are the liaisons between the U.S. Military and the local population.

"Our mission in Panama is to interact with the local population, maximize the humanitarian impact of New Horizon Panama 2010," Pfc. Romero said. "We visit the job sites and other schools in the area to assess different ways we can make a positive impact. These quick impact projects include things like setting up internet access, donations, and activities where U.S. service members interact with local children. Today's visit is just one of many -- designed not only educate local citizens about the New Horizons mission, but to forge relationships that go 'beyond the uniform.'"

New Horizons Panama 2010 is a U.S. Southern Command sponsored humanitarian assistance exercise designed to provide medical care and quality-of-life improvement projects for the people of Panama. In total, four schools and two medical clinics will be renovated by a force of U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army engineers. Additionally, five medical teams will deploy for two-week rotations in the towns of Chitre, Veraguas, and David to provide care in the fields of ophthalmology, ear-nose-throat surgery, and dentistry.

Since New Horizons started in the mid-1980's, Airmen and members of USSOUTHCOM have built schools and community centers, dug wells, provided medical care, and constructed clinics year after year at the request of numerous countries in the spirit of cooperation and friendship.

All these missions revolve around USSOUTHCOM's ongoing commitment to theater security cooperation, and are requested by the host nations. By sharing experiences, information, vital skills, tactics, and techniques, the United States continues to build enduring partnerships with nations in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.