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Curacao’s U.S. Military Corps Builds Strong Relationships During COVID-19 Lockdown

WILLEMSTAD — Taking advantage of the reprieve from COVID-19 restrictions, the 429th Expeditionary Operations Squadron at Forward Operating Location Curacao reinvigorated their community outreach efforts and key leader engagements.

In September 2021, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport visited with the leadership team at the FOL; this was the first visit for Prime Minister Pisas. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the strong relationship the FOL has with the government and how to strengthen that partnership going forward.

“We are open for business, big business,” said Prime Minister Pisas when asked about increased opportunities for the FOL.

In October, the 429th EOS continued their efforts by hosting a FOL open house for 173 children from local schools. The open house piqued significant interest in the FOL and its mission. Janella Mansana and Stephany Pineda, the two host nation contractor employees responsible for planning the school kid’s excursion, received several phone calls from local schools wanting to know when their students could attend the next open house.

“One of my visions upon assuming command was to breath life back into the great community work that was taking place before the pandemic brought it all to a halt,” said Lt. Col. Don Morris, the commander of the 429th EOS. “The great contributions and efforts from our host nation contractor employees like Ms. Stephany and Ms. Janella make executing these events special for the community and easy for us.”

Janella Mansana has worked on FOL Curacao for 17 years and says her favorite part of working on the FOL is “the respectful and friendly way everybody treats each other, “It is important that these events continue to clear up any misperceptions of what we do here and for people to see for themselves what kind of jobs we as local nationals actually do here.”

Stephany Pinedo has worked on FOL Curacao for 8 years and says her favorite part of working on the FOL is “connecting with people from around the world and sharing the culture and lifestyle of the island of Curacao.” “To the community here these events mean getting more information and a clear vision of what the FOL stands for and the purpose of it here on the island.”

To close out 2021, the 429th EOS Booster Club, along with the men and women of the FOL, raised funds for the repair and replacement of the USS Erie World War Two memorial residing at Koredo Piscadera Curacao.

Through partnering with the director of the Battle Station Blaauw WWII Museum on Curacao the 429th EOS Booster club saw the replacement of the damaged USS Erie memorial become a reality.

“This will never be forgotten, after almost two years of struggle, you came and brought the solution,” said Alan David van der Ree, the museum director.

The 429th EOS continues planning and coordination of future community outreach events.

“It is through the efforts of everyone on the team that these events can continue to happen, said Lt. Col. Brian O’Dell, Director of Operations for the 429th EOS. “That is especially true for our host nation contractor personnel. Building relationships and strengthening partnerships is not just something that looks good on a placemat; for us here at FOL Curacao it’s our way of life.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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