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Seabees Assuring the Future of Honduras in New Horizons '06

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS060330-15
Release Date: 3/30/2006 3:27:00 PM

By Lt. Cmdr. Kyra Hawn, Naval Construction Force Public Affairs

EL PINO, Honduras (NNS) -- A team of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 based in Gulfport, Miss., are participating in a U.S. Southern Command exercise New Horizons ‘06 until May.

Seabees assigned to the element of New Horizons named Joint Task Force Asegurar el Futuro, or “assuring the future,” have a 90-day exercise construction goal of building four schools and one medical clinic for local citizens.

Efrica Matute, a teacher at the El Pino school for five years said she is “happy to be getting a better building” because it “will help out having more room.” The existing two-room school accommodates 200 children, ages 6-13 in shifts throughout the day. The new school is being constructed with room to spare for growth and extra-curricular activities.

The short timeline and fast-paced construction tempo of Seabee-led projects has placed an unusually high demand on the local Honduran economy and workforce. Navy Seabee Civil Engineer Corps Officers with procurement and contracting experience are working with the local business population and other joint task force engineers to develop best practices for incorporating Honduran national construction trade laborers, procuring local materials and setting realistic goals for supply requests and project milestones.

“There will be many lessons learned, and one of the most important is that we depend on the local economy and small businesses to support our construction efforts,” said Lt.j.g. Richard Pocholski, NMCB 7 Honduras engineering projects lead officer.

Other challenges involved in using U.S. construction practices in a foreign host country involve tailoring generic design and construction drawings for a specific location, incorporating tropical climate factors, identifying and specifying materials readily available from local supply chains, and harnessing the ideas and talents of the construction tradesman and local leaders who will ultimately receive the structures upon completion.

This approach to building local infrastructure has built stronger relationships and a cooperative trust between the military team supporting New Horizons and the Honduran community they aim to serve.

“Seeing the kids and working with the Hondurans - that’s what keeps us going,” explained Builder Constructionman Mike Veroneau. “Working on this project makes me feel like I’m doing something with my life and I’m helping out other people.”

Seabees on the job site have applied their “Can Do” culture, work ethic and standards to the entire joint task force project.

“We want to make sure we build a great product and we’re able to walk away knowing that we did a good job. It’s a pride thing for us,” said Steel Worker 1st Class (SCW/FMF) Jeremy Rich. “A lot of Seabees are in Kuwait, Iraq and places like that, but we’re happy to be in Honduras because it’s something we’re doing for the community that will affect them for a long time.”

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