Engineers partner to build schoolhouse for Thai children

| July 31, 2015 | 0 Comments
Photos courtesy of the 643rd Engineer Company (Above left photo) Spc. Wihbedihmbom Bonduh, right,  643rd Eng. Co., assists Royal Thai Army engineers to set up scaffolding during the construction of a schoolhouse for the 5th- and 6th-grade children. Meanwhile, Engineers lay rock, right photo, to prepare for sidewalk concrete alongside the schoolhouse construction project during the Hanuman Guardian 15 exercise, May-June.

Engineers lay rock, right photo, to prepare for sidewalk concrete alongside the schoolhouse construction project during the Hanuman Guardian 15 exercise, May-June.

Sgt. 1st Class Nicole Howell
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
Photos courtesy of the 643rd Engineer Company

 

SARABURI, Thailand — In a continued effort to strengthen multinational partnerships across the Pacific theater, U.S. and Thai army engineers partnered to build a two-room schoolhouse for the fifth- and sixth-grade children, here, during the exercise Hanuman Guardian 15.

In less than 30 days, the Engineering Civic Action Program team, made up of 25 engineers from the 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Eng. Battalion, 130th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sust. Command, along with 29 Royal Thai Army (RTA) engineers, created a multipurpose building from the plans to the paint.

“The new building gives them two new classrooms with a partition wall between the two rooms,” said 2nd Lt. Robert Hofer, 3rd platoon leader, 643rd Eng. Co. “The wall between the two rooms is removable so they can also have a community gathering room.”

Although there was a spoken language barrier between the engineers, their technical proficiency and knowledge allowed them to communicate by using the language of engineering.

Photo courtesy of the 643rd Engineer Company Spc. Daniel Roberts, 643rd Eng. Co., works with a  Thai counterpart in Saraburi, Thailand.

Spc. Daniel Roberts, 643rd Eng. Co., works with a Thai counterpart in Saraburi, Thailand.

“We have the same jobs as the RTA, just doing it in different countries,” said Hofer. “We learned some construction tricks from them, like using some materials that are more common in Thailand for new uses. For example, they use fishing line to mark the edges of buildings during surveying, which helps because it stretches when people trip on it. We use regular string or chalk lines, which doesn’t work as well.”

Not only did the team use this time to absorb new methods to increase efficiency, they were able to focus on skills they do not get to perform regularly.

“The mission definitely improved our construction proficiency,” said Hofer. “We were challenged with some construction tasks like some electrical work, plumbing, roof work that we don’t usually get permission to do because of permitting and licensing issues. I wouldn’t call where we were an austere environment, but there was definitely less support than back in garrison, so we had to be more flexible in order to get things done, so we definitely became a more adaptable unit.”

This larger scale construction project was completed five days earlier than expected, giving them time to assist with other deficiencies in the area.

“To support the new building, we also did some drainage work so the area around the school is vastly improved, which will help with mosquitoes,” said Hofer. “This was needed due to flooding in the area. We had the building lifted off the ground by three feet by bringing in soil and compacting it. This added three to four days to construction. We also did the bathroom, full electrical work, and put slip resistant paint on the sidewalk we made, so there were quite a few more construction tasks for us than normal.

Photos courtesy of the 643rd Engineer Company (Above left photo) Spc. Wihbedihmbom Bonduh, right,  643rd Eng. Co., assists Royal Thai Army engineers to set up scaffolding during the construction of a schoolhouse for the 5th- and 6th-grade children. Meanwhile, Engineers lay rock, right photo, to prepare for sidewalk concrete alongside the schoolhouse construction project during the Hanuman Guardian 15 exercise, May-June.

Spc. Wihbedihmbom Bonduh, right, 643rd Eng. Co., assists Royal Thai Army engineers to set up scaffolding during the construction of a schoolhouse for the 5th- and 6th-grade children.

On the last day, the team, local children and distinguished visitors participated in a dedication ceremony.

“The most rewarding part of the mission was having the local Thai people and children thank us for our work,” Hofer said. “After the dedication ceremony, all the school children shook our hands to thank us. We taught them to shake hands, so it was cool they did that at the end.”

For Hofer, the satisfaction was also building relationships with the Thai people.

“The villagers we worked with had never met Americans before, and now these kids will associate America with the nice new building they got at their school,” Hofer said. “I don’t think there’s much that can top that. It was definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve done and something I and my Soldiers will remember for the rest of our lives.”

HG 15

Hanuman Guardian is an annual bilateral army-to-army exercise that takes place May-June, co-hosted by the Royal Thai Army and U.S. Army-Pacific. It is designed to improve humanitarian assistance/disaster relief capabilities, enhance multiple technical capabilities and improve the quality of life in rural communities.

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