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Utah Guard linguists bridge language gap for Beyond the Horizon Guatemala

May 14, 2012

By Spc. Anthony D. Jones, Task Force Arriero Public Affairs

COBAN, Guatemala (May 14, 2012) -- Utah National Guard members from the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade are deployed as linguists in support of Beyond the Horizon Guatemala 2012 and are bridging the communication gulf between U.S. military personnel and the host nation's military and citizens.

Beyond the Horizon operations in Guatemala have been underway since March 14 and have consisted of engineering projects and medical aid stations rendering care to Guatemalan civilians. Sailors, Airmen, and Soldiers are working side-by-side with Guatemalan military engineers to construct or rebuild schools and health clinics in various communities, and the linguists' importance in their success to this point cannot be overstated.

Staff Sergeant Reinaldo Colon-Burgos, 1st Company, 135th Aviation Battalion, Missouri National Guard, is a native Spanish speaker functioning as a pay agent in his second Beyond the Horizon deployment. He spoke highly of the 300th MI Battalion, whose Soldiers he's worked with in the past, and emphasized the importance of a language capable force.

"Linguists tie two countries together to accomplish a mission," said Colon-Burgos. "We're liaisons for the U.S."

Chief Warrant Officer Robert Sandberg, 141st MI Battalion, 300th MI Brigade, Utah National Guard, described the makeup of his battalion by saying, "We have several different (jobs), but everybody is a linguist."

This large availability of linguists contributes to the high deployment rate of 300th MI Brigade personnel throughout the world. While in Guatemala, Sandberg has been working with Army and Air Force engineers in both Tactic and Balbatzul to facilitate the construction of a women's clinic and school, respectively.

Sgt. 1st Class Angel Lopez, 142nd MI Battalion, 300th MI Brigade, Utah National Guard, has been deployed several times, but this Beyond the Horizon mission is his first as a linguist. He has been occupied at the Sarrax-Och job site, allowing U.S. Army engineers to incorporate Guatemalan army engineers into their operation.

Both Sandberg and Lopez volunteered to support Beyond the Horizon and appreciate the opportunity to give to the communities where they've worked.

"I like that we're out here doing the humanitarian stuff," Lopez said.

Minutes later, he toured the temporary school and distributed pockets full of candy to the excited children.

Sandberg, talking about the community's reception of BTH forces, said, "They love what we're doing."

Beyond the Horizon is a U.S. Army South-led humanitarian and engineering support mission deploying military engineers and medical professionals to demonstrate U.S. support and commitment to Guatemala and its people. Beyond the Horizon operations will continue through July 14.

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