AYACUCHO, Peru --
When children in Yanamilla, Peru return to school or visit the doctor this September, they will walk into a brand new schoolhouse and medical clinic - courtesy of the U.S. Marines.
Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 472 Detachments Minus out of Willard Grove, Pa., Alpha out of Wyoming, Pa., and Bravo out of Chicopee, Mass., are nearing the completion of a schoolhouse in San Jose and medical clinic in Yanamilla, in the Ayacucho region, as part of New Horizons - Peru 2008. New Horizons is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored program to bring humanitarian assistance to Latin and Caribbean nations.
Since June 1, more than 150 Marines have worked on the clinic and schoolhouse. In what was supposed to take two and a half months to complete, the Marines are scheduled to finish their projects two weeks early.
"We projected the construction to be a lot longer but since it's moving rapidly, it means good teamwork from everybody to get it done," said Staff Sgt. Anton Rozbora, Task Force New Horizons project manager for the San Jose and Yanamilla sites.
Once completed, the school will have two classrooms, a library, latrines and electricity. The medical clinic will have five patient rooms, a storage room, a lobby, a restroom with running water, doctor's quarters, windows, fluorescent lights, ceiling fans, and electricity.
Although it was not part of their original plans, the Marines took it upon themselves to build an outside retaining wall in to provide long-term stability for the clinic.
"A retaining wall will give better drainage, especially during the rainy season; it will control all the water coming down from the mountainside and guide it around the clinic," said Sergeant Rozbora.
After the sites were chosen for the schoolhouse and clinic, local contractors laid a concrete slab as foundations for the two buildings in May. By early June, the MWSS 472 began building the infrastructure with concrete blocks and reinforced them with vertical rebars for structural integrity. Local contractors will install the roof before the MWSS 472 returns to work on the plumbing, carpentry, electrical work and a painting.
The Marines' work has not gone unappreciated. The locals around Yanamilla are excited about the construction of these vital facilities.
"Driving to and from the work sites, we get a lot of the local people out there waving to us and talking to us," Sergeant Rozbora said. "The local people tell us that what we're doing is great and they can't wait until we're done."
Add to the fact that interacting with the Peruvian locals breaks down cultural barriers.
"We love interacting with the locals that live around the job sites and learning a little bit about their culture; the country is beautiful and the people have been very thankful and welcoming," said Cpl. Kathleen Ruscio, combat engineer. "We enjoy being in a different country, helping those that are less fortunate."
The experience the MWSS 472 Marines are gaining through New Horizons as part of their annual training cannot be duplicated back in the states. For many of the Marines, they are not only gaining valuable experience within their own military occupational specialty, but there also learning other specialties.
"It's real training, its good training," said Sergeant Rozbora. "I'm teaching them how to do my job and they walk away with something they didn't know before. I'm not only helping the local population. I'm also helping my Marines by teaching them."
"We don't always get the chance to do block construction as we're doing here, so this is a great opportunity and learning experience," said Corporal Ruscio.
For the MWSS 472, this is not the first time they have participated in New Horizons, having supported the 2006 mission in Honduras. However, this New Horizons project has offered an even better experience.
"The teamwork involved with the whole task force is great," said Sergeant Rozbora. "I have seen good leadership and coordination amongst all the branches of service. There's not one person out there that's not getting along with everybody."
For the Marines, the experience has been nothing but memorable, and for some, an opportunity of a lifetime.
"Its all about helping the people, helping the kids and I love every minute of it," Sergeant Rozbora exclaimed. "When I leave here, I'll know that what we accomplished is something great for the Peruvian people and they'll be able to walk right into something we've done for them."
Task Force New Horizons - Peru 2008 is a three-month long humanitarian operation that offers the construction of two school houses, three medical clinics, and a water well for the Peruvian people of the Ayacucho region. In addition to the construction projects, doctors, nurses and medical specialists will conduct nine medical missions, giving free medical care for the local populace. More than 950 active duty, reserve and guard servicemembers from the Air Force, Marines, Navy and Army will work with Peruvian military and civilians to accomplish the mission. For more information about New