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    Steel Connections: Filipino-American Marine Champions Classroom Construction

    Balikatan 24: Alannay Elementary School Groundbreaking Ceremony

    Photo By Cpl. Trent A. Henry | U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tyrone Barrion, a force engineer with I Marine...... read more read more



    Story by 2nd Lt. James Estillore 

    Exercise Balikatan       

    As he surveyed the crowd in front of him, United States Marine Corps LtCol. Tyrone Barrion revealed a personal insight during a groundbreaking ceremony in Lasam, Cagayan, Philippines on March 26, 2024: “I am a direct product of the Philippine-American alliance,” he stated. “I’m very proud to be Filipino-American.”

    Barrion, a combat engineer based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., spearheaded an eight-week project between the Philippine Army’s 513th Engineering Construction Battalion and the United States Marine Corps’ 9th Engineer Support Battalion. The ongoing mission is to construct a two-classroom building for the second graders of Alannay Elementary School as part of Exercise Balikatan.

    For generations, Filipinos and Americans have shared values of diligence and determination, forged within the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces. During WW2, 260,000 Filipinos fought side by side with the U.S. military. After the Philippines' independence in 1946, over 35,000 Filipino nationals joined the U.S. Navy over the ensuing four decades, all earning U.S. citizenship. Today, Filipino-Americans have filled the ranks and risen to the highest positions across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Barrion knows he is one of many before, beside, and after him who will carry this illustrious legacy.

    “This is not my story alone,” Barrion said.

    Barrion’s journey highlights the intertwined history and values between the Philippines and the U.S. Born in San Diego to Filipino immigrants from the province of Cavite, Barrion’s American upbringing was made possible by the sacrifices of his father. Retired Chief Petty Officer Frank Barrion joined the US Navy in 1965, earning his US citizenship and dedicating 27 years of service as a ship line cook.

    Reflecting on his father’s dreams of American opportunities, Barrion acknowledged, “I joined because it's my way of honoring how my family got here."

    Barrion arrived to the islands of his ancestors to serve as Exercise Balikatan’s Joint Task Force Advanced Echelon Officer-in-Charge, working alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines to plan humanitarian civic assistance engagements. These included construction projects for health centers and school classrooms, no-cost medical and dental evaluations, and gift-giving of technological equipment to elementary schools.

    Barrion’s proficiency in Tagalog served as a bridge between his heritage and leadership role, enriching interactions with both the AFP and local communities.

    “Being able to speak Tagalog has put a lot of them at ease,” Barrion said. “One of the benefits of knowing the language is allowing folks to speak freely and openly about their plans and thoughts.”

    Speaking Tagalog not only facilitated communication but also unraveled a broader shared identity. Within the embrace of American society, Barrion's family committed to preserving Filipino traditions.

    Immersed in Tagalog family tales and the aroma of Filipino cooking, Barrion’s service in the Philippines was a proud and impactful tribute to his ancestry. “I had the opportunity to grow up in the United States, while always hearing about the beautiful history of the Philippines,” Barrion said to the residents of Cagayan. “It’s my history, your history and the alliance’s history.”

    Beyond language, cuisine, and history, Barrion was instilled with the industrious spirit ingrained in Filipino culture. “My parents taught me to be the type of person to incite action,” Barrion said.

    After nearly two decades of military service, Barrion has collected a myriad of leadership experiences spanning across the world, including deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations–all before serving in his family’s homeland.

    “It’s a full-circle moment for me,” Barrion said. “But the students are the reason why we’re here.”

    Weeks of construction, marked by the sweat and toil of both Filipinos and Americans, symbolize a shared vision for a better future for generations to come. Barrion affirmed, “We don’t get here by ourselves, and we’re not here for ourselves.” Increasing teacher-to-student ratio, the new classrooms will enable more tailored support, opening doors for educational opportunities for local school children.

    This project fortifies the community and deepens the longstanding friendship between the Philippines and the United States. With the multi-generational service legacy set by his father and Filipinos who came before, Barrion is part of a shared vision and steel connection between Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, and the U.S. military.

    Construction will be completed by AFP and U.S. engineers next week. As a Balikatan 24 humanitarian civic assistance engagement, the Alannay Elementary School two-classroom building project required 11 months of bilateral preparation and coordination. Balikatan is a Tagalog term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together,” which characterizes the spirit of the annual exercise and the alliance between the Philippines and the United States.


    Date Taken: 05.01.2024
    Date Posted: 05.01.2024 18:10
    Story ID: 470059
    Location: LASAM, PH

    Web Views: 181
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