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New Horizons kicks off in Nicaragua

by Senior Airman Jacque Lickteig
New Horizons Public Affairs

2/16/2007 - SANTA TERESA, Nicaragua (AFNEWS) -- More than 500 Nicaraguans along with deployed members of the United States military celebrated the official start of the New Horizons 2007 humanitarian exercise Feb. 15.

New Horizons is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored readiness training exercise designed to help Nicaraguan people in Santa Teresa and other areas.

Almost 250 U.S. military members, under the lead of the 820th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in conjunction with the Nicaraguan government, are scheduled to build a two-room schoolhouse in San Martin de la Calera and a five-room medical clinic in Buena Vista. They will also provide free medical care during three scheduled Medical Readiness Training Exercises and will donate a water well the 820th ERHS members built for Camp Red Horse to the town after the exercise.

Overall, the three-to four-month exercise will cost about $7.25 million.

"New Horizons is a reflection of the relationship between the U.S. Armed Forces and the people of Nicaragua," said Samuel Santos Lopez, minister of foreign relations for the Republic of Nicaragua.

The New Horizons theme, "Juntos Podemos," or "Together, We Can," was evident at the beginning of the ceremony when an international color guard, including the 820th ERHS's Senior Airman Jesus Cortez, Nicaraguan army Sgt. 3rd Class Juan Ramon Bado and Soldiers Marcos Mercado and Vladmir Perez, presented the Nicaraguan and American flags. All military members from both countries saluted as a Nicaraguan army band offered powerful renditions of both national anthems.

The San Francisco School Dance Group, a local troupe, displayed Pacific Nicaraguan culture, which is rich with Spanish influence, through an all-girl dance. The dancers, attired in wide-bottomed white dresses, red scarves and sashes and broad woven baskets on their heads, greeted the United States in the form of sequenced graceful curtsies to the beat and rhythm of Spanish guitars, trumpets and drums.

Then, Santa Teresa Mayor Cristobal Conrado, addressed the audience, welcoming and expressing gratitude for the United States' efforts.

"This exercise is extremely beneficial to our communities, as we will have new school, a water well, a new medical clinic and free health services," he said. "We thank the government of the U.S. -- especially to its Armed Forces -- for the help given to our town so far and for being with us here."

He also said he would provide all the support he could to ensure the exercise will be as successful as possible.

Camp Red Horse Commander Lt. Col. Aaron Young praised the Nicaraguans' hospitality and commended the Airmen's, Soldiers' and Marines' hard work that has already poured into the community since Feb. 5. He closed out with expressing his expectations of his team - nothing less than excellence.

Afterward, different members of the dance group performed an Atlantic Nicaraguan dance, the Dominican Stick. Boys adorned in gold head wraps and Capri pants wiggled their hips and shook dance sticks around wiggly-hipped girls who wore pink Flamenco-style skirts and shirts. They represented more of the Caribbean flare of Nicaragua.

U.S. Ambassador Paul Arthur Trivelli discussed previous New Horizons efforts in Nicaragua from 2000 until now. He reminded everyone how their work will directly improve Nicaraguan people's lives and strengthen United States' and Nicaragua's bond.

The ceremony concluded with Mr. Lopez's remarks. The minister of foreign relations applauded the joint effort.

"During your visit to Nicaragua you will have the opportunity to share great experiences, as you will be benefiting 158 communities in the towns of Santa Teresa, Nandaime and La Conquista," he said.

He closed his speech and the event wishing the U.S. troops success in their mission. 

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