News: Civic assistance projects make significant progress for Thai children, communities
Story by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Lewis
PHITSANULOK, Thailand - Multinational forces are making significant progress as they continue constructing new structures in five districts of the Kingdom of Thailand during ongoing engineering civic assistance projects part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
While the exercise officially begins Feb. 11, additional time was needed to ensure the buildings are complete before the exercise concludes Feb. 21. Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored multinational, multiservice exercise that includes forces from Singapore, Japan, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, and observers from other countries in the region.
Service members at each site are performing vertical construction of a single-story, 25-foot wide, 60-foot long concrete masonry unit with 12 windows, six doors and internal electrical distribution, including outlets, switches, fans and fluorescent lighting. Each building will accommodate up to approximately 60 additional students and have two partitions, allowing it to be separated into as many as three classrooms.
Each site is ahead of schedule by a couple of days, according to U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Chris J. Mifflin, the combined joint civil military operations task force engineering operations officer during the exercise and Engineer Company operations chief for Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Interoperability has been key to the progress we have made,” said Mifflin, a native of Sydney. “It demonstrates the commitment that Thai, partner nations, and U.S. have toward our regional partnership and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. Humanitarian and civic assistance projects conducted during CG 13 support the needs and humanitarian interests of our friends and regional partners.”
Throughout the first two weeks of the projects, the multinational service members have worked side-by-side and exchanged construction techniques.
“The Thai service members are extremely innovative with their ideas and do an amazing job,” said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David A. Padgett, a combat engineer officer and 2nd platoon commander assigned to Company A, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF. “As U.S. Marines, we have tools at our disposal that not everyone else has, that is where we are able to exchange the most amount of knowledge,” said Padgett, a 24-year-old native of Rye, N.Y., who is serving as the project officer in charge at the Ban Kurd Nam Man Elementary School in the Chat Trakarn District, Phitsanulok province, Kingdom of Thailand, during CG 13.
“At our site, we are learning techniques to use if our tools stop functioning, and (our multinational partners) learn how to use our tools,” he added. “As Marines, we adapt and overcome, and the other services are very good at adapting and overcoming, too.”
Other services are seizing the opportunity to learn as well, not only about new tools and techniques, but safety precautions.
“Working with the U.S. has taught me many things, especially about safety,” said Royal Thai Army Sgt. Singtong Khondee, an engineer team leader with Mobile Development Unit 34, Royal Thai Army. “I think about wearing hard hats and making sure we are properly supported when working on the roof. The U.S. service members take every precaution to avoid an accident.”
The project sites have endured a few minor setbacks, which makes their progress up to this point much more impressive, according to Mifflin.
“We have had to endure some inclement weather, which can slow things down when working with concrete,” said Mifflin. “There have also been some minor issues with materials, but the multinational cooperation has minimized the impact on the sites, enabling them to move ahead of the timeline.”
Being ahead of schedule allows all the service members to take more time to get to know each other.
“This is my first time at Cobra Gold, and it is great to learn about all of the new cultures,” said Singapore Army 1st Sgt. Soh Boonhui, a combat engineer with the Singapore Combat Engineers. “We talk about each other’s ranks, uniforms, badges, and we have been sharing stories about our hometowns … now I want to visit New York.”
Once the projects are complete, the service members know they will have left a positive impression on students, school staff and the surrounding communities. They will also leave a permanent reminder of their work.
“We are integrating each other’s techniques, which allows us both to leave our footprint and say it was a 100 percent team effort,” said Padgett.
The structures will be dedicated to the schools during ceremonies scheduled from Feb. 18-21. Other military units conducting the civic assistance projects include other elements of the Royal Thai Air Armed Forces, the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, Tentara Nasional Indonesia, Malaysian Armed Forces, the U.S. Army’s 643rd Engineer Company (Vertical), the Washington National Guard’s 176th Engineering Company (Vertical), U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 and MWSS-172, MAG-36, 1st MAW, III MEF.
This work, Civic assistance projects make significant progress for Thai children, communities, by SSgt Kenneth Lewis, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.