U.S. marines with the Logistics Combat Element (LCE), Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command (SPMAGTF-SC) attended a closing ceremony at Once de Febrero School in Trujillo, Honduras, on October 13th, to celebrate the completion of their renovation project at the school. After the ceremony, residents of Trujillo held a reception in the city to thank the marines, who come from reserve units across the United States, for their hard work and dedication to the community. The ceremony concludes nearly five months of renovation work at several schools in and around Trujillo.
“We had four different schools identified by the Honduran government, specifically, by the department of Colon and the United States Embassy in Honduras,” said U.S. Marine Corps Captain Jarrod D. Deitrich, engineer site officer in charge with the LCE. “We felt that, rather than build one school from the ground up, we would have more impact in the community if we refurbished four separate schools.”
The Honduran Department of Education identified four schools in the community that were most in need: Taufick Bendeck, Elvira Tome, Ana Palmore, and Once de Febrero. From the onset of the projects, the marines worked hand in hand with Honduran Army engineers from the 1st Engineer Battalion to create new trusses, roofing, electrical wiring and other improvements to the school buildings.
“We worked it out with the U.S. Embassy and the Honduran Army and were able to lock on six engineers that worked right beside us for the duration of the project,” Capt. Deitrich said. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of these engineers, and it was a great experience for our engineers to see their capabilities. They live in the area, grew up in the area, and could help identify what worked best for the community.”
Despite the language barrier, the marines and Honduran engineers were able to pick up on each other’s methods and the differences in their processes. “The Honduran engineers don’t use the same procedures and materials, but they learned quickly, they were dedicated, and had no problem working outside of what their normal jobs were,” said. U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Bradley E. Durbin, the site utilities staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the LCE. “It was eye opening for my marines to see how the Honduran engineers operate, particularly their work ethic. The marines really picked up on that and it was good working with them.”
In addition to the school projects, the marines were also involved in various community relations events around the city. “We worked with the “Guardianes de la Patria” youth mentorship program and a non-governmental organization called ‘Little Hands, Big Hearts’ that helps support special needs students,” said U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Romano A. Vargas, a civil affairs specialist with SPMAGTF-SC. “I think these events helped the marines see they could impact the community with more than just the work they were doing on the schools.”
The lasting impact the marines have made on this community is something they intend to remember and benefit from for the rest of their careers. “I hope that this is an experience the marines will never forget,” Capt. Deitrich said.
“The marines are helping out not only the kids who are currently attending the schools, but also the generations of kids who will attend after. They also got a lot of hands-on training at the schools that they wouldn’t be able to get during annual training exercise back at their home unit,” he added.As the projects come to a close, the marines will return to Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, to prepare for redeployment to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in November. In addition to the school projects in Trujillo, marines with SPMAGTF-SC completed engineering projects in Guatemala and Belize, as well as conducted security cooperation training with their counterparts in several Central American and Caribbean nations. The unit also participated in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean Sea as part of Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands in response to hurricanes Irma and Maria