By Army Sgt. Maj. Rick Black
U.S. Army South
COBAN, Guatemala (5/11/2012) – Linguists with the Utah Army National Guard’s 300th Military Intelligence Brigade have been working to bridge the language gap between U.S. military personnel and the host nation’s military and citizens as part of Beyond the Horizon Guatemala 2012.
BTH operations in Guatemala have been underway since March and has consisted of U.S. service members working side-by-side with Guatemalan military engineers to construct or rebuild schools and health clinics as well as other engineering projects and running medical aid stations to provide care to Guatemalan civilians.
The linguists are key to the success of those missions.
“Linguists tie two countries together to accomplish a mission,” said Army Staff Sgt. Reinaldo Colon-Burgos, with the Missouri Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, a native Spanish speaker who has used his language skills as part of previous BTH missions. “We’re liaisons for the U.S.”
And others agreed.
“We have several different [jobs], but everybody is a linguist,” said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Sandberg, with the 300th MI Bde.
Sandberg has been working with Army and Air Force engineers in the Guatemalan cities of Tactic and Balbatzul to facilitate the construction of a women’s clinic and school.
For many of the linguists, taking part in the mission itself and interacting with those in the area is the rewarding part.
“I like that we’re out here doing the humanitarian stuff,” said Sgt. 1st Class Angel Lopez, with the 300th MI Bde., who has been working with U.S. Army engineers as they integrate with Guatemalan army engineers.
BTH is a U.S. Army South-led humanitarian and engineering support mission that will continue through mid-July.