Construction equipment and materials for a joint U.S.-Belizean exercise is scheduled to begin arriving in ports in Belize in the spring for New Horizons 2013, an event that will test U.S. military members’ ability to deploy while building partnerships with host-nation medical and civil engineering experts.

The exercise, overseen by U.S. Southern Command, is slated to last 90 days and include several construction projects to add new classrooms and buildings to schools. Manpower will be provided by both U.S. and Belizean military engineers.

In addition, combined U.S. and Belizean medical teams will conduct multiple medical events to provide medical services to Belizeans.

Preparations have been going on for months to kick off construction and medical events in the spring, according to planners. The construction equipment and materials scheduled to arrive will be received, stored and secured by the Belize Defence Force, who will also be participating in the exercise.

“Deploying the equipment and supplies that exercise participants need is a major part of New Horizons,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Richard Hallon, one of the exercise’s staff planners. “We’ve got to pack and prep the right equipment and materials in the U.S., work with U.S. Transportation Command to have those items shipped to the partner-nation participating in the exercise, and coordinate for the storage and security of those supplies until the exercise participants arrive.”

New Horizons dates back to the 1980s and is conducted in a Central American, South American or Caribbean partner-nation at the government’s request. Once the location is determined, the host-nation government prioritizes a list of proposed medical and construction projects, which is balanced against the exercise’s training objectives to ensure that participants get the maximum training benefit.

“New Horizons provides U.S. service members with training that they can’t get at home,” said Chris Donovan, the lead exercise planner for his sixth New Horizons. “This process is all about being able to plan and carry out a deployment from start to finish. There are some experiences that simply can’t be gained by talking through the process. This exercise provides our service members with an opportunity to gain experience that enables them to be ready to answer the call when and where needed for a real-world humanitarian need or crisis-type situation.”

The other key benefit that U.S. service members receive is the opportunity to learn from and build partnerships with the exercise participants from the host nation’s government and military forces, he added.

Over the past 20 years, U.S. Southern Command has regularly partnered with the Belize Defence Force as well as the Ministries of Health and Education to conduct combined exercises that make both sides more prepared to respond to humanitarian relief scenarios.

Last year’s version of New Horizons provided humanitarian and civic assistance through six projects in the Chincha, Pisco and Independencia regions of Peru hit hard by an earthquake in 2007.

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