By By Capt. David J. Murphy, 1st Combat Camera Squadron
/ Published July 30, 2015
OCOTES ALTO -- New Horizons Honduras 2015 training exercise personnel, Honduran government officials, Honduran military members and U.S. Embassy representatives, in addition to the Gabriela Mistral students and their parents, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new two-classroom schoolhouse at the Gabriela Mistral school July 28, 2015, in Ocotes Alto, Honduras.
The new 1,680-square-foot, two-classroom schoolhouse, which includes two bathrooms with running water, will be used by high school students starting Wednesday. The schoolhouse was constructed by U.S. Airmen from the 823rd Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron, out of Hurlburt Field, Fla., and U.S. Marines from the 271st Marine Wing Support Squadron, out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
"To the men and women of the New Horizons Honduras 2015 training exercise, I want to offer my congratulations on a job well done," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Elliott, New Horizons Honduras commander and 823rd RED HORSE Squadron deputy commander. "It has been my honor to watch Airman and Marines joining together to form an unstoppable team. To see engineers of all specialties working together, teaching each other and overcoming every challenge to complete such a first-rate facility has been one of the highlights of my career."
Construction on the building began June 1, 2015, and was completed in mid-July, nearly a month and a half ahead of schedule.
"The breakneck speed and precise efficiency with which you completed this building goes miles in demonstrating your job skills and teamwork," added Elliot.
Representing the Honduran government was Colón Department Governor Ghisell Padilla, Trujillo Mayor José Antonio Lainez, Colón Department of Education District Director Doris Maradiaga, Honduran Army Col. Rafael Deras, 15th Battalion Commander, and Abraham Ruiz, Gabriela Mistral principal.
"For us as a government and representatives of the president, it's an honor to be here at this ribbon-cutting ceremony for this schoolhouse at Gabriela Mistral," Padilla said. "I also want to thank the teachers as they make it possible for our children to have the bread of knowledge and are also here in this institution of Gabriela Mistral."
The new schoolhouse, which will support 60 students a day and act as a last stop for students at the school, originated from a meeting between the governor and other Trujillo officials eight months ago when they were planning the New Horizons exercise.
"We were discussing which school we should pick, who would benefit from this project New Horizons, and which school was in the most need. That's how we chose Gabriela Mistral," added Padilla.
The original plan Ruiz had for the school included installing a new roof on an existing building.
"I remember it exactly almost a year ago when we called the principal of this school and asked what the school needed and he said we have a building, but we need a roof for that building," said Maradiaga "so the person who went to inspect the building said ... why don't we just build a new structure."
The school project is one part of the larger New Horizons exercise. Other parts include the drilling of two wells, one in Honduras Aguan and another in Brisas del Mar, medical support in both the operating room and emergency room at the Dr. Salvador Paredes Hospital in Trujillo, and a vector-borne surveillance program in Tocoa.
Twenty-four hour security at the both the school site and the well sites was a joint effort between 15th Battalion Soldiers from the Honduran Army and U.S. Air Force security forces.
"It was a great cooperation, how everything was set up, how we did security with the U.S., and everything went very smoothly," said Deras.
Gifts were also presented by Ruiz to all the service members who had a hand in the schoolhouse construction.
"The faculty and I were trying to think of a good idea for the military members to have something to remember the work they put into this building," said Ruiz, "so we came up with the idea of making gifts. So we had people painting, cutting, drawing and I hope these gifts will help the military members remember this experience."
A dedication plaque was presented following the ribbon-cutting ceremony and denotes the who, what, where, when and why of the exercise. The plaque reads:
"This building stands as a testament to the strong and enduring partnership between Honduras and the U.S. It was constructed by U.S. Air Force Airmen and U.S. Marine Corps Marines with security from the Honduran Army. This project provided valuable training for all involved and strengthened the partnership between our nations."
"I want to reiterate how grateful we are to the Government of Honduras for inviting us here to conduct this training exercise," Elliott said, "I am confident that we will return home having strengthened relations between our nations."
The event, much like the groundbreaking ceremony, also included both traditional and modern dances by Gabriela Mistral students.