Engineers, Seabees return from Caribbean exercise

9 Jul 2002 | Cpl. Allan J. Grdovich

Approximately 60 Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group from Camp Lejeune, N.C., and a detachment of Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-40 out of Port Hueneme, Calif., packed up their tool belts, drill bits and sea bags July 8 as Exercise New Horizons Barbados-02 ended here.

The Marines and Sailors have prepared for their return to the United States for a couple of weeks now after spending three months providing humanitarian assistance to the local communities here.

More than 6,000 concrete masonry unit blocks, thousands of square feet of roofing, 100 yards of concrete and numerous miscellaneous items were needed to complete the construction exercise.

The projects included a 3,300 square foot barracks for the Barbados Defense Force capable of housing 60 troops; a 2,000 square foot community center for the Sterling House Orphanage; and a new roof for the Youth With a Mission retreat center, said 1st Lt. Bradley J. Van Slyke, an 8th ESB combat engineer officer.

"Before we came here, the current site was practically a jungle," said Sgt. Eric Smith of the Sterling House project. Today Sterling has a brand new multi-purpose facility in its place, said the 8th ESB foreman from Bastrop, Texas.

"This is very positive for us. It will be a good place to let the children let off some steam where they can play indoor games. Also, I won't have to be as creative as I was before," joked Adrian Douglass, a Sterling assistant house parent.

Community relations played a significant part in the exercise, explained Van Slyke, who hails from Madison, Wis.

"Many of the locals and children were curious about us," he said.

To satisfy their curiosity, Marines and Sailors invited children from the orphanage and nearby neighborhood to the base in June.

"We showed them some of our equipment and distributed Meals Ready-to-Eat. The children seemed excited," he said.

Ultimately, humanitarian exercises such as New Horizons play an important role in the development of foreign friendships and also to troop development, according to Van Slyke.

"We've taken 18- and 19-year-olds who have no prior professional experience in building, brought them to a foreign country, gave them a plan and directions and they got the job done. That's impressive." 

With the exercise concluding, most Marines and Sailors enjoyed their learning experience, said Lance Cpl. Danford A. Rowell, who plans to take some needed leave in his native Gresham, Ore.

"It has been interesting, but I think we are all ready to get out of here and back to our families," he said.

In previous years, News Horizons Exercises have been held in Haiti, St. Lucia and various other South American and Caribbean nations.