AECC linemen to bring electricity to remote, Guatemalan villages

Source: Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas
Source: Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas
Source: Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas
Source: Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - A group of linemen are headed south of the border in just a couple days to bring electricity to a remote Guatemalan village. The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas sent the first group of men last year and we were able to catch up with two of the men who are about to head out for "Operation Razorback" round two.

"We've been on numerous ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes," electric lineman Michael Counts told Region 8 News.

"Never left the country," fellow lineman Craig Weisenbach finished Counts' thought.

As the saying goes, there's a first time for everything. For most of the 13 linemen headed to Guatemala, it'll be the first time to work outside the US. For the residents of La Haciendita and Las Flores, it'll be the first time they've had electricity in their remote villages.

"We take it all for granted, I mean...just a flick of a switch and this is something they don't have," Weisenbach said.

21,000 pounds of materials and equipment they'll need are already packed away in a crate along with three truck-loads worth of things like shoes, eye glasses, bibles. They're items donated by Electric Co-Op employees from all over Arkansas.

"Most people don't have the luxuries that we have," Counts said.

For the three weeks the linemen are in Guatemala, they won't either. It will be no vacation.

"Everything's manual labor," Counts explained.

Villagers will help set the 50 power poles throughout the community and linemen like Counts and Weisenbach will do the rest.

The men explained they'll string wire and hang transformers but in a much different atmosphere than they're used to.

"Here, we are at sea level and that's about 9,000 foot so it's gonna take an adjustment, getting used to the air being a lot thinner," Weisenbach said.

With 50 poles going up, there will be a lot of climbing.

"But it's not the climbing that's gonna get us...from pole to pole it's over a thousand feet and it's either straight up or straight down...there's no flat ground," Counts explained.

Regardless of the hard work, they say it'll be worth it, especially once the job is done.

"It'll bring a tear to your eye, a grown man. Yes ma'am," Counts said.

The men fly out of Little Rock Wednesday morning to Houston. From there, it's a four hour flight to Guatemala City and then an eight hour drive to the base of the mountain. It'll take another few hours of driving up the mountain to get to the villages.

A lighting ceremony will take place in the villages around April 5 or 6 and the men will be back on April 11.

The Facebook page "Operation: Razorback (Guatemala)" has been created to give updates on the men while they're out of the country.

A news release by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas has information on the rest of the men headed to Guatemala.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All Rights Reserved.