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Navy SEABEES contribute to New Horizons mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • New Horizons Panama 2010 Public Affairs
Two Navy SEABEES, assigned to the 820th RED HORSE Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., are working side-by-side with Army and Air Force engineers during New Horizons Panama 2010.

Lt. j.g. Derek Rinaldo, and Senior Chief Petty Officer Shawn Crosby bring almost 40 years of combined SEABEE experience to the Task Force New Horizons team. Both are assigned to the Air Force as part of a personnel exchange program. Nellis AFB is one of three sites where Air Force and Navy engineers are assigned to the other service for two years.

"This is the first time I've worked with an Air Force unit," Lt. j.g. Rinaldo said. "It's great to serve in a joint environment, especially with the New Horizons mission. We get to go out, talk to people, and the presumption is 'We're here to help.' The kids are smiling, and the parents and teachers are happy to get new facilities. It's something completely different."
New Horizons Panama is an annual U.S. Southern Command humanitarian assistance exercise, designed to provide medical care and quality-of-life improvements to infrastructure in countries of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. For 2010, the task force is renovating four schools and two medical clinics in the vicinity of Meteti, Panama, and providing five two-week medical missions in the towns of David, Chitre, and Veraguas.

Lt. j.g. Rinaldo is the material liaison officer for the exercise. He works with contractors to make sure the correct building materials arrive on time and are delivered to the six construction sites. The duty is not without its challenges.

"Some of the items we are used to working with in the U.S. are just not available in Panama," he said. "In those cases, I have to work with the different craft leads to identify a suitable replacement, and then get the materials delivered to the site in a timely manner so work doesn't stop."

Senior Chief Petty Officer Crosby is supervising the maintenance and improvement of the temporary base camp housing more than 250 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines during the course of New Horizons Panama. He has more than 32 years of active and reserve time in service, and has been involved in the various New Horizons missions since 1999.

"I'm lovingly referred to as the 'Camp Mayor,'" he said. "I'm responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the camp, including the facilities, utilities, roads and people. Keeping the base camp running smoothly - with hot meals, cool tents, showers, and recreation facilities - is just as important as the work at the construction site."

Both SEABEES agree that integrating with an Air Force RED HORSE squadron was as seamless as possible. Initially, there was a steep learning curve to learn Air Force-specific administrative functions and acronym deciphering, but both agree that the squadron welcomed them both with open arms.

"There's not been one moment of feeling like the odd man out," Senior Chief Petty Officer Crosby said. "I often tell other SEABEES that the only difference between an Air Force RED HORSE engineer and a Navy SEABEE is the uniform. It's really that simple. When you're talking about a construction force in the U.S. military, everyone works hard and gets the job done. We have been completely integrated into the squadron; we're just wearing 'U.S. Navy' nametapes."

The senior chief hopes to one day integrate best practices that he picks up from the RED HORSE squadron into the SEABEE culture. By melding the two, he wants to improve both. Lt. j.g. Rinaldo will use the experience to help him stay competitive in the civilian sector when he departs the Navy at the end of the year. Until then, each man stays committed to the New Horizons Panama mission, and the obvious improvement to remote community's schools and clinics.

"This is an outstanding mission," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Crosby, who opted for elective surgery earlier in the year just so he would be medically eligible to deploy to Panama. "To be able to come down to Panama, and help the people is definitely rewarding work. This is one of the better things we, as engineers, get to do."