Editor’s note: Story submitted by the office of Col. Mark Anderson, commander of the 188th Fighter Wing based in Fort Smith.
TACTIC, GUATEMALA — The 188th Fighter Wing does more than just fly jets.
Airmen with the Arkansas Air National Guard's 188th Civil Engineering Squadron (CES), which falls under the 188th Mission Support Group of the 188th Fighter Wing, began constructing a key addition to the Centro de Salud medical clinic April 16 in Tactic, Guatemala during a deployment to the country.
The 188th civil engineers deployed to Guatemala to participate in Beyond the Horizon (BTH) 2012, a joint foreign military, humanitarian and civic assistance mission deploying U.S. military engineers and medical professionals to Guatemala. The effort is led by U.S. Army South.
The 188th CES, which is currently still deployed to Guatemala, is in the middle of a three-team, six-week rotation. Each team is deployed for two weeks.
The 188th CES, which is commanded by Maj. Joe Harrison, will spend most of its time constructing a 1,500 square foot structure that will function as a women's clinic and will include four exam rooms, one lab, three bathrooms, a maternity ward and a waiting room.
"We're extremely proud of our civil engineers and the great work they're doing in Guatemala," said Col. Mark Anderson, 188th Fighter Wing commander. "Their professionalism, dedication and skill shows in everything they do. The construction they're accomplishing in Guatemala furnishes valuable training for our Airmen. It will also provide an important medical facility and function as a key community resource for many years to come."
Sergeant 1st Class Jason Ites, Tactic Site project manager and member of the Missouri Army National Guard's 110th Movement Enhancement Brigade, will oversee construction through the project's completion in early July.
"We're doubling the size of the facility," Ites said. "It will give them the opportunity to see more people, which will also allow them to better focus their medical assets."
The primary objective of BTH is to train U.S. military personnel while demonstrating U.S. commitment and support to Guatemala.
"Guatemala and Arkansas are state partners, and the 188th jumped at the opportunity to participate in BTH," Ites said.
Ites said the 188th CES will supply the bulk of the workforce and will be responsible for the majority of the site's progress.
"This is a great opportunity to gain experience working with the people of Guatemala," said Senior Airman Lance Hobbs, a heavy equipment operator with the 188th CES.
The Centro de Salud clinic has been open for more than 20 years but lack of space has hampered its ability to provide adequate care for the local community.
"This will give them better opportunities to serve more people and expand their capabilities," said Master Sgt. Bob Haag, a heavy equipment operator with the 188th CES. "I'm humbled to have the opportunity to make the quality of life [in Tactic] better."
Hugo Hernandez, who has served as the clinic's director for the past eight months, said during his tenure the clinic has assumed a 24-hour operating schedule. Hernandez said the around-the-clock operation has led to a vast increase in patient admittances with numbers nearly tripling since 2009. He estimates 25% of all Tactic citizens are now born at his clinic.
The clinic has struggled to keep up with the increasing number of patients. Hernandez expressed his thanks for the U.S. support exhibited through the BTH project.
"Last year, we only had three beds," Hernandez said. "To get this project done locally, especially this big and this quickly, would be very difficult."
The entire BTH operation, which spans from April through July, will feature construction projects at two schools, construction of three medical clinics, establishment of a short-term veterinary aid station and establishment of several medical care points, each able to render aid to more than 500 Guatemalan civilians.