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New Horizons construction projects pull ahead of schedule

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • New Horizons Panama 2010 Public Affairs
Army and Air Force engineers have already pulled ahead of schedule just two weeks into the New Horizons Panama 2010 construction projects.

Capt. Brandy Caffee, 820th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron lead engineer, attributes the success to hard work, flexibility and efficient process improvement techniques.

"In the planning phase, we looked at the scope of each project, at each site, from A to Z and assessed how much manpower, construction material and time would be needed," she said. "As the work started, we discovered that some projects would take less time and fewer people, so we shifted that work force to other projects earlier than planned."

For instance, the construction plan called for a new roof, electrical rewiring, new awning, latrine replacement, and playground installation at the Sanson Elementary School. The projects at the Sanson site were estimated to take up to 45 days, but Captain Caffee said that at the current pace, the projects will be complete in about half that time, with fewer workers. The surplus manpower has already begun projects at the Rio Iglesia Medical Clinic a full 30 days ahead of schedule. The Rio Iglesia site will get a new two-room storage building, renovated entryways and sidewalks, a secure storage room inside the facility, and a new playground.

"We have to be flexible to keep crews actively engaged in the construction projects," Captain Caffee said. "RED HORSE is about getting it done, not about cutting corners. We are doing things right, and finding quality alternatives to unforeseen challenges."

One challenge Task Force New Horizons engineers face is rain, an almost daily occurrence in the Darien Region of Panama during the summer months. More workers have been assigned to base camp maintenance in Meteti to combat the mud and moisture, by keeping roads graded and ensuring rainwater drains away from tent city.

"It's still early in the overall scope of this exercise, but I'm amazed at the resiliency and adaptability of personnel to compensate for the climate, the material differences, and some last minute changes in actual site conditions," said Col. Darren Daniels, Task Force New Horizons commander. "Folks are working hard here, and it really shows."

In addition, a local airfield has been utilized as a supply yard of sorts, acting as a central delivery and distribution point for building materials. By assigning Airmen to this central point, distribution of materials to sites that need the same things can be regulated to match work progress. Sites are not over encumbered with materials which cannot be used right away, and no sites sit idle as a result of having too few materials. These types of process improvements lead to greater efficiency.

If the projects are finished early enough, Captain Caffee said the New Horizons Task Force may focus on other auxiliary projects that benefit the local communities.