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AFSOUTH ramps up for New Horizons Panama 2010

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • New Horizons Panama 2010 Public Affairs
 More than 250 Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen are preparing to take part in New Horizons Panama 2010, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored annual exercise starting June 21 designed to strengthen ties with partner nations in Latin America and the Caribbean through combined quality-of-life improvement projects.

Since New Horizons started in the mid-1980's, Airmen and members of SOUTHCOM 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.

New Horizons Panama 2010 is no different -- scheduled to last 12 weeks, it includes six major construction projects at four schools and two clinics in the vicinity of Meteti in the Darien region of Panama. The exercise also includes five Medical Readiness Training Exercises in the area of David, Chitre, and Veraguas, according to Mr. Chris Donovan, New Horizons Panama 2010 lead planner at 12th AF (AFSOUTH) in Tucson, Arizona.

The construction projects are being coordinated with Panamanian Ministries of Health, Education, and Government and Justice. The Panamanian Frontier Force, an organization which protects the austere border area between Panama and Colombia is providing security for the exercise, as well as the tent city site.

"We've been received extremely well," said Capt. Hugo Via, New Horizons Panama 2010 engineer planner. "It's very interesting to experience the cultural and professional diversity between the U.S. and our Panamanian hosts."

All construction projects are within one hour of Meteti, location of a temporary encampment housing all the construction teams participating in New Horizons Panama. The 567th RED HORSE Squadron from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, has been preparing the site and erecting tents since mid-May to be ready in time for crews to start work in June.

The six construction projects include:
* A new bathroom, storage room, and storm drainage system for Canglon medical clinic
* Two storage rooms, improvements to the existing pharmacy, bathrooms, and entryway for the Rio Iglesias medical clinic
* Roof replacement, bathroom replacement, and heavy electrical upgrades for Sanson School
* Roof replacement and extension of the dining room at the Agroforestry School of Canglon
* Bathroom replacement, new storage building, and interior remodeling to allow for classroom, bathroom, and administrative offices at the Rio Iglesias School
* Two new classrooms, water tower, electrical upgrades and septic tank for the Santa Liberada School

New Horizons Panama 2010 engineers will also install playground equipment and recreation areas. After completing their assigned construction projects, Airmen expect to depart the encampment for their home bases in the United States in late September.

The medical outreach missions that begin July 2, include a variety of disciplines, including ophthalmology, ear-nose-throat surgical teams, and dental. Five different medical teams will deploy for two weeks at a time, providing free healthcare in their designated fields to the local populace.

The $8.5 million project has taken nearly 10 months to plan. More than 200 pieces of equipment and storage containers have been airlifted or sealifted to Panama to keep the total force project on schedule. Three of the site foundations have been pre-poured, but the rest will all be completed by RED HORSE Airmen and U.S. Army engineers.

New Horizons is just one of a multitude of missions conducted in Panama over the years. In November 2006 and again in November 2008, heavy rains battered areas of Central America, leading to flooding and landslides. Authorities declared a state of emergency and submitted requests for assistance through their respective embassies, clearing the way for U.S. military support. U.S. soldiers delivered nearly 500,000 pounds of relief supplies, and airlifted 21 people to safety. Additionally, since 2003, AFSOUTH has conducted 12 medical missions Panama, treating more than 41,500 patients and performing more than 376 surgeries, all free of charge.

The U.S. military also participated in Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2009, one of the largest multinational training exercises in the world, involving more than 30 vessels, a dozen aircraft and 4,500 personnel from 20 nations. The annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise series focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal, one of the most strategically and economically crucial infrastructure systems in the world.

All these missions revolve around U.S. Southern Command's ongoing commitment to theater security cooperation, and are requested by the host nation. By sharing experiences, information, vital skills, tactics, and techniques, the United Sates builds partnerships with nations in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, strengthening friendships in a cooperative environment.