Engineers build community center, partnership with Indonesian forces during Garuda Shield 2012
June 20, 2012
MALANG, Indonesia (June 20, 2012) -- Forging a partnership is a lot like building a house. The basic steps are the same: lay a foundation, build barriers and then break them down, and finally, take a step back and admire the progress.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 871st Engineer Company, 411th Engineer Battalion, headquartered in Hilo, Hawaii, and their counterparts with the Tentara National Indonesia Angkatan Darat, or TNI-AD, are accomplishing both tasks as they work side by side to build a community center in Malang, Indonesia, as part of Garuda Shield 2012.
In its sixth year, Garuda Shield is a combined exercise between the TNI-AD and U.S. Army that improves peacekeeping, stability operations and increases the disaster relief capabilities of both armies. A major part of the exercise is the community center construction project, as well as a sister project to renovate a family welfare center in the same part of Malang.
Despite a language barrier and obstacles that are inherent to building in an urban area, the TNI-AD Soldiers and the 871st engineers have quickly bonded, learned from each other and have the project on track for its dedication scheduled June 21.
"We're here to support them and build a bond between our side and their side. We've done a lot of bonding while we've been (working) here. We're starting to learn each other's language, we're giving them the whole Hawaii thing," said Staff Sgt. Melissa Della, from Waipahu, Hawaii. Della is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the community center construction site for the 871st, which falls underneath the 9th Mission Support Command, based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
TNI-AD Pfc. Djoko Bramono, echoed Della's sentiments.
"We're very happy to join with the U.S. We work together and help each other. We've taught them some things and they want to learn," said Bramono. "They make an effort to apply what we taught them. We learn about each other's cultures and languages. We are great friends, like brothers."
Della said the TNI-AD Soldiers put up the walls of the community center before the 871st arrived, then the U.S. Soldiers assisted their counterparts in constructing the roof, paving the area outside of the center and then installing the floor tiles for the center. Della noted that the TNI-AD's order of construction--building the walls and roof before putting in the floor--is the reverse of the way the 871st would conduct the project, but that it makes sense as it provides protection from the sun when putting in the floor.
Della said the engineers also learned paving techniques from the TNI that they could take home with them, as well as using a rubber tube filled with water as a level.
"We've never worked with the water level (tool) that they've used. From what I hear it's very accurate," said Della. "A lot of us have never paved too, so we can take that home with us. They taught us and then our guys went in there and helped out."
Della mentioned that the flow of knowledge also went the other way, as the 871st taught the TNI-AD engineers the technique of placing Soldiers in a chain to pass along bricks and other objects instead of each individual carrying an item from one place to another.
Even with the initial language barrier, Soldiers from both sides have become fast friends while working together, said Sgt. Ernest Keuma, of Makakilo, Hawaii, the safety noncommissioned oficer for the community center site. The engineer partners have faced issues with material shortages, but they continued working with what they had to complete each stage of the project, said Keuma.
"The TNI can teach us a lot. They are friendly and work well with us. You have to hang your pride up and just learn. It seemed like we'd run into obstacles and just go around it," said Keuma. "We've had snafus here and there. We've adjusted fire a lot and we'll get it there. It is hard to believe, seeing all the bricks laid out, that just a week ago it was all dirt."