News: Philippine, U.S. forces bond over positive community impact
Story by Lance Cpl. Michael Thorn
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay Province, Philippines – Filipino and American soldiers work together to construct a public comfort room April 17 – May 15 in Legazpi City, Albay Province, Philippines.
The comfort room is one of the five engineering civic assistance programs projects being completed as a part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement between members of the Armed Forces of the Philippine and U.S. armed forces.
The public comfort room is being built as an addition to the recreational center that is available for local community to use.
“It’s awesome helping and seeing the community come out,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jake Oberlechner, ENCAP site officer in charge with 84th Engineer Battalion. “I’m happy to be here with our Filipino counterparts working alongside us. It’s nothing short of excellent.”
In addition to the Filipino and American soldiers, some local community members and Philippine Air Force reservists have come to the site to assist with the project in their free time.
“I will be teaching in the area when the construction is finished,” said Philippine Air Force Reserves Sgt. Jason Auditor, a civil engineer. “Being here is a great experience. It’s my first time working with Americans, and I’m happy to see we’re all here helping out the community.”
While working on the comfort room, members of the AFP and U.S. armed forces have taken the opportunity to bond over the positive impact their work will have on the community, according to U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle T. O’Keefe.
“The impact on the community will be substantial,” said O’Keefe, a civil engineer with 84th Engineer Battalion. “There is a small language barrier, but we understand each other perfectly when it comes to construction and the way we are helping the Philippine people.”