By 2nd Lt. Harold D. Williams, Tennessee Army National Guard Public Affairs
A team of 23 Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 23 constructed a women’s medical clinic in the town of El Rancho as part of Beyond the Horizon (BTH) Guatemala 2012.
BTH is a U.S. Army South-led, joint service military humanitarian and civic affairs exercise. U.S. military engineers and medical professionals, the majority of which are National Guard and Reserve service members, are tasked with providing medical and dental care and engineering support to the Guatemalan people.
The women’s clinic and a separate restroom facility will augment an existing clinic, Puesto de Salud. The 1,600-square-foot building under construction doubles the Puesto de Salud’s treatment area. While under construction, the clinic remains open, seeing 30-40 patients per day. Local Guatemalans have been known to pitch in such as when concrete blocks for the entire project arrived unexpectedly. Both the locals and Seabees worked together and unloaded hundreds of blocks by hand.
NMCB 23 ‘Bees are the only element of the joint force exercise to oversee one of the five BTH construction sites from start to finish. Air Force and Army elements will rotate personnel through Guatemala in two-week or one-month phases, while the Seabees will stay as one group for three months.
Lt. Jeff Dong, NMCB 23’s BTH mission commander, noted the difficulty of the task with the Guatemalan rainy season looming over a project that has already been delayed by site preparation issues.
“We’re faced with challenges in material delivery, terrain and weather,” Lt. Dong said. “[But], the Seabees will get it done.”