Wolfpack Soldiers build new opportunity in Thailand
March 8, 2013
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii-- For the third straight year, the 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, has deployed to Thailand for exercise Cobra Gold to construct schools and spread education to the children of Thailand.
Cobra Gold is an annual six-week joint exercise between the United States, Thailand, and six other nations. It is a "cooperative engagement" in which U.S. Pacific Command's forces and assets are employed to strengthen alliances and friendships while deterring aggression.
This year, "Wolfpack" Soldiers of 1st Platoon, 643rd Eng. Co. deployed for more than forty days to Phitsanulok providence to construct a new kindergarten and first-aid building for the Ban Hua Wang Krang School. The school, which serves 70 children through the instruction of four teachers, was in severe need of assistance because of severe damage by termite infestation and floods. The Wolfpack would take on the challenge of replacing these buildings in just over a month. The replacement would be a 1680-square-foot concrete masonry building; impervious to insect damage and resistant to the flooding which plaques the area.
While heavily engaged in construction, the Wolfpack worked side-by-side with Thai and Sing engineers, experiencing the construction techniques and culture of each force.
"We learned a lot from the Thai Engineers, and they learned a lot from us," said Sgt. Jonathan Ayers, a team leader with the unit. "We drove the construction timeline and made sure it got done one time, but they showed us how they lay stucco inches thick to produce a wall as smooth as drywall."
The Thai Soldiers learned how to efficiently lay quality concrete block, while the U.S. and Sing Soldiers learned the Thai methods for finishing stucco, which was a significantly more time-consuming process, but produced a far smoother finish than standard U.S. stucco.
The job nearly complete, the Wolfpack were given time to explore the local Thai culture. The local Phitsanulok Temple, Phra Si Ratana Temple (Wat Yai), one of the most revered temples in Thailand, hosted a fair towards the end of January, allowing the Soldiers to experience the local culture and cuisine. While exploring, the Wolfpack also happened upon an Elephant Sanctuary only a short drive away from the project site. They were greeted with the opportunity to pet, feed, and even ride the nearly 3-ton creatures.
"That is one of the coolest experiences I've ever had," said Spc. Ethan Mustain, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 634th. "It made the whole trip to Thailand worth it."
After 30 days of hard work with limited rest, the final touch-ups were complete to the paint and the dedication sign was installed, marking the completion of the jointly constructed building. Though finished a few days before, the official completion date of the Building would be marked Feb. 21 as it would be dedicated in front of the provincial Governor, U.S. Ambassador, the commanding generals of the Thai and Sing forces for Cobra Gold, and the U.S. commanding general of Army Forces in Japan. The ceremony was a tribute from the school children and principal to the Soldiers, in thanks for the new school and new opportunities. The principal referred to the hard work done by U.S. Soldiers as "The good stuff".