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New Horizons security forces teach English to Panamanian hosts

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • New Horizons Panama 2010 Public Affairs
Two bilingual security forces Airmen assigned to New Horizons Panama 2010 are spending their free time in front of a black board teaching English classes to members of the Panamanian Frontier Police (SENAFRONT).

Master Sgt. Noland Rivera and Senior Airman Sheryl Job started out teaching a few words in English to SENAFRONT members at the six New Horizons construction sites to make communication easier, but are now teaching classes twice a week for up to two hours.

"For me, the classes are very good," said First Sgt. Luis Quintero, SENAFRONT 1st Brigade Headquarters operations NCO, through an interpreter. "From the beginning, I practiced English with Sergeant Rivera so we could coordinate security. Then, I went out on my own and found a study book, which led me to ask for a class for the rest of the staff.

"The classes have been very helpful. I have noticed more interaction between my troops and the U.S. servicemembers. While we are not yet fluent in English, we plan on continuing to learn after (Task Force New Horizons) leaves Panama."

Sergeant Rivera said he enjoys teaching, and also hopes the classes will help SENAFRONT members in the future.

"The SENAFRONT members really like the classes, and they are always attentive and willing to participate," he said. "I hope that by doing this relatively small thing, we can improve our relationships and leave a lasting, positive impression. Maybe in the future, they will say something like, 'Remember the Americans who came and taught us English? They were good people.' It's all about forging relationships that will last."

Airman Job was nervous about teaching at first, but soon warmed up to the idea after a class or two.

"I have never been a teacher before," she said. "I thought to myself, 'I don't want to let them down.' The SENAFRONT personnel are so energetic and willing to learn though, that it makes it easy. Sometimes I wonder how we will fill an hour of class, but then I realize almost two hours have passed, and everyone wants to keep going. It makes me feel good to be able to contribute."

The Airmen turned teachers will stay in Meteti for the duration of New Horizons, 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.