News: Dedication ceremony reinforces commitment to multinational cooperation
Story by Sgt. Catherine Sinclair
CHIANG MAI PROVINCE, Kingdom of Thailand – Multinational commitment to prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region was evident at a dedication ceremony Feb. 18 for a school structure built during a humanitarian and civic assistance project in Ban Piang, Chiang Mai province, Kingdom of Thailand, as part of exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
Construction of the new facility began Jan. 22 by participants from Thailand, the U.S., Indonesia and Malaysia, and represents the commitment of the participating nations to partnership and to collaboratively provide for the basic needs of the local community.
“This symbolizes our commitment to our communities—not only the U.S. and the Kingdom of Thailand, but certainly our other partner nations who helped contribute to this building,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Raquel C. Bono, command surgeon of U.S. Pacific Command.
As a show of their appreciation for the addition, students from Ban Piang Elementary School put on an elaborate performance of folk dancing and playing of musical instruments native to Thailand’s rich culture.
“I think it’s equally symbolic to have the children perform, as this building is for them,” said Bono, who was the distinguished guest for the ceremony. “When we as different communities have come together to invest in their future, it represents (participating nations’) investment, time and support.”
The large, multipurpose building was completed ahead of schedule, and the remaining materials were used to erect playground structures for the school children to play on, added U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John Llewellyn, a project supervisor.
“It was a great opportunity to come out and work with other countries. We are able to learn from them, and they can learn from us,” said Llewellyn. “As far as the children go, I think they are going to benefit greatly and the community will benefit greatly.”
The new building can be divided into three classrooms, ultimately maximizing the space to separate students by grade, curriculum and learning level.
"This exercise has been a very good experience for us. We've worked together and been able to exchange knowledge in our construction field,” said Malaysian Navy Capt. Murali Sub Ra Maniam, a construction site supervisor. “It has been an honor for us to construct the school for these children."
The goal of the project is to build relationships with community members, learning from one another while accomplishing common goals.
“Any time that we are able to build interoperability between forces, especially engineering forces, it will go a long way,” said U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Michael Bonifer, assistant officer in charge of the site. “If anything was to happen and we had to respond as disaster relief and recovery, we already know each other’s capabilities and limits.
Any time we can get out here and train and learn together is really going to benefit us all in the long haul,” he added.
The humanitarian and civic assistance projects conducted during CG13 allow multinational forces to train together and collectively support the needs and humanitarian interests of friends and regional partners.