Joint task force takes first steps to securing future

  • Published
  • By Capt. Mike Chillstrom
  • New Horizons 2006 - Honduras Public Affairs

The initial stages of a four-month long joint training exercise between the U.S. military and Honduran government, dubbed Operation New Horizons 2006 -- Honduras, began here in January.

Joint Task Force, or JTF, Asegurar el Futuro, or “Securing the Future,” conducted the New Horizons mission and provides engineer, medical and support training for U.S. and Honduran forces. When the mission is completed in late spring, the JTF will have built four schoolhouses, a maternity clinic and provided humanitarian medical assistance in 14 different locations in the coastal city of La Ceiba and its surrounding areas.

“New Horizons allows us to work hand-in-hand with the Honduran government and get some very valuable training,” said Maj. Toney Riley, New Horizons 2006 -- Honduras commander. “The exciting part is that as a result of our training, we’re making life a little better in this part of Honduras.”

Construction and medical sites were chosen by the Honduran government based on the specific needs of certain areas. In fact, some work sites are near cinder-block homes built by the U.S. government after the area was decimated by Hurricane Mitch in the late ’90s.

To make this exercise a success, the JTF draws upon the expertise of active duty, Guardsmen and Reservists from the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy.

Planning such a large exercise was challenging, but the effort is paying off now that work in Honduras is underway, said Major Riley, deployed here from the 11th Civil Engineer Squadron at Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C.

“Initial planning started back in February (2005). It took three site visits, three planning conferences and thousands of man hours to get us where we’re at,” he said. “We just finished the tent city and our facilities are now in working condition. Now the real fun can begin.”

The JTF is housed on an active-duty Honduran air force training base. Before the tent city was completed, most JTF personnel were temporarily living and working out of a building that will be the New Horizons dining facility and armory. Wet weather, limited supplies and shortfalls slowed the construction.

“Even with some setbacks in the tent city construction, we’ll start work at some of the construction sites this week. Everyone’s been working hard because they know we’re on a tight schedule to get all the projects done,” Major Riley said.