U.P. soldiers go above & beyond in Guatemala

The National Guard gets sent on various missions throughout the year, but when you are part of a vertical construction team there is a lot of good you can do.

Soldiers from the Michigan National Guard’s Marquette–based 14 30th and the Sault Ste. Marie–based 14 37th engineer companies traveled to Guatemala recently to participate in “Beyond the Horizon 2014.”

74 U.P. soldiers were dispatched to Zacapa, Guatemala for the joint inter-agency field training exercise. The project consisted of humanitarian and civil assistance construction projects, medical readiness, training exercises and other construction efforts. Though successful, the two week mission had a few challenges along the way.

“When we left here there was snow on the ground, when we got there the average was about 100 degrees.  It was hot, humid, I don’t know if we ever got use to it during out two weeks there, it took some getting use to,” said Donald Kelloniemi, Sgt. 1st Class, Michigan National Guard.

“Yes, there is not too many of us from the U.P. that speak Spanish so we definitely used the interpreters. There was a few in the unit that spoke Spanish so that helped out a lot,” said Mike Giroux, Unit Supply Sergeant, Michigan National Guard.

“We picked up a little bit of Spanish, they picked up some English, we understood what needed to get done but the interpreters definitely helped,” continued Kelloniemi.

Where needed, soldiers jumped in assisting and learning additional skills. And at the end, the troops left kids a special surprise.

“Some of our guys that were there had some scraps and built them a jungle gym and a fort so they could go out and play outside the school. The kids and teachers were really happy and pleased with the addition that they built for them, continued Kelloneimi.

“The kids seemed to enjoy it, they were using it before they left.  You go to a third world country less fortunate than us and you see how they live, eat and take care of themselves and how they get around compared to us here, we have it much easier and much nicer.  It’s memories like that, that help keep things real,” continued Giroux.

When materials ran out, soldiers chipped in their own money to finish the project.