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CJCMOTF Deputy Commander Talks CG15 HCA Mission, Future in Exercise


Story by Cpl. James Marchetti

CJCMOTF Deputy Commander Talks CG15 HCA Mission, Future in Exercise LOP BURI, Thailand - “I just want to emphasize how proud we are of all the engineers here,” U.S. Army Maj. Alejandro Buniag’s voice echoes over the loud speaker, “and take this opportunity to recognize them for their hard work, dedication, perseverance, sweat – the time they sacrificed from their families for the construction of this multipurpose building.”

More than 200 villagers fastened their eyes on Buniag, the deputy commander of the Combined Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force element for Exercise Cobra Gold 2015, as he spoke from behind the lectern Feb. 19. A formation of Thai, U.S. and Chinese service members – the engineers he refers to – stood at parade rest in front of the freshly painted building in the village of Ban Nhong-Plong, located in Chai Badan District, Lop Buri Province, Thailand.

“As the CJCMOTF deputy commander, an engineer, and I myself as a teacher, recognize the quality of work they’ve put into this.” Buniag continues, “It’s a true testament of what learning from one another, and teamwork, can accomplish.”

The audience – comprised mostly of locals – gathered to celebrate the completion of the new building, a footprint of CG15 that will remain in their village for years to come.

“What we’ve built here in Ban Nhong-Plong is not simply a classroom,” Buniag states. “What we’ve built are bonds of friendship and respect between our nations. May we continue to strengthen that bond in future Cobra Gold’s to come.”

CG15 is not Buniag’s first rodeo with the large-scale, Asia-Pacific exercise, as he has previously fulfilled the CJCMOTF deputy commander position. In this role, he has overseen and facilitated multiple projects in the CG humanitarian civic assistance mission that aids in the development of underserved regions in Thailand.

Nor was this his first time recognizing the efforts of 797th Engineer Company (Vertical) – the group of U.S. Soldiers, based out of the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Barrigada, Guam, who assisted the Thais and Chinese at Ban Nhong-Plong.

In 2009, Buniag received the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award for his efforts as the commanding officer of 797th Engineer Co. – his favorite post during his military tenure, he stated.

“I attribute the award to the sweat and blood the soldiers from Guam have shed to achieve mission success,” said Buniag. “Over the years, the various roles in the Army that I have partaken have been dynamic. From serving as commander for the 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade team participating in Army experiments, to Brigade Plans Officer during external evaluation exercises, to being the CJCMOTF Deputy Commander.”

“The roles change, but the leadership remains the same.” he added, “It simply comes down to two principles; a positive attitude and taking care of your team, so they will take care of you.”

CG15, in its 34th iteration this year, is meant to provide a venue for the U.S. and its partner nations to increase capability and interoperability in planning and executing complex and realistic multinational operations.

In the joint-collaborative environment that CG15 presented, Buniag and his staff was challenged with monitoring four ENCAP sites dispersed across three Thailand provinces, which utilized the vertical engineering efforts of six different nations.

This challenge – the experience that conquering it entailed - is what enticed Buniag to accept the deputy commander role again in 2015, he said.

“Having participated in several international exercises over the years – from Keris Strike in Malaysia, to Garuda Shield in Indonesia” said Buniag. “I am honored to be a part of something great. The (CG15) HCA mission is 4 times larger than any other HCA mission I have been a part of, and provides an opportunity for the task force to train in a combined and joint environment. It’s a great opportunity when you get to work with your sister services.”

As CG wraps up its 2015 iteration, and the personnel from 25 participating nations make their way back to their homes scattered around the globe, Buniag will return to his home in Yigo, Guam, to continue his career as a dual-Department of Defense employee.

“As a U.S. Army Reservist, I believe that citizen-soldiers bring a plethora of knowledge and experience to accomplishing the mission,” said Buniag. “As an U.S. Army engineer officer and a 5th grade teacher with the Department of Defense Education Activity, both construction and the importance of education go hand in hand with the CJCMOTF mission.”

In next year’s CG, Buniag has again been invited to serve as the CJCMOTF deputy commander; an invitation he is receptive to.

“For us as brothers in arms to showcase our noncombatant capabilities in the betterment of a country like Thailand – it doesn’t get better than that,” said Buniag. “As a leader, to set up my soldiers, Marines and sailors – along with their counterparts across the globe for success – the feeling can’t be replicated in any other line of work. The brotherhood is what continues to keep me serving our great nation.”

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