By Sgt. First Class Raymond DrumstaJune 14, 2013
DEPOK, Indonesia -- Community is where you find it, and for some U.S. and Indonesian troops, that place was a school and orphanage here on June 12.
About 45 of the Soldiers took time out from Exercise Garuda Shield 13 to visit the Tubagus Pangeling Islamic Education Institution and donate food, school supplies, sports equipment, dental hygiene supplies and health text books. They also gave the children dental hygiene and first-aid classes, played games and shared some smiles along the way.
The Soldiers belong to the 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade and 1984th U.S. Army Reserve Hospital, the U.S. Army ROTC program and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Army. The Soldiers are among the U.S. and Indonesian military personnel taking part in Garuda Shield 13, the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to strengthen military-to-military cooperation while focusing on international peace support operations.
About two dozen Soldiers of the civil affairs brigade and Army Reserve hospital are tasked with the logistical and life-support functions for Garuda Shield, according to Sgt. 1st Class Jay Rivera, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Garuda Shield's Combined Training Operations Center.
This is the third year in a row they've performed this Garuda Shield mission, which includes managing most of the food, housing, medical, force-protection and other needs of U.S. Army and Air Force personnel at three bases and multiple training sites, explained Rivera, of Waipahu, Hawaii.
Nonetheless, community relations events like the institution visit are part of the unit's civil affairs mission, explained Capt. Ronel Estorgio, the brigade chaplain.
"We thought that, in the midst of Garuda Shield, there was something we could do," said Estorgio, also of Waipahu.
The unit began discussing possible community relations events, also known as COMRELs, months before Garuda Shield's start on June 10, Estorgio said. Though they brainstormed a number of ideas, some friends of his in Indonesia suggested visiting an orphanage, he recalled.
With the help of some members of the Indonesian military, the troops were able to survey a number of orphanages and select one where their needed assistance would have a lasting effect, Estorgio said.
The supplies included rice, cooking oil, pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, soccer balls, volley balls, ping-pong paddles and dozens of health textbooks the unit reviewed and ordered online, Estorgio said.
The institution is home to about 82 children who've either suffered the loss of one or both of their parents, or whose parents can't afford to send them to school, said institution Headmaster Sopian SiddiQ. The institution provides the children's' education, food, housing and clothing, and the teachers are like parents to them, he emphasized.
The children were attentive yet energetic as the troops worked with an interpreter to teach them the proper brushing method, how to bandage a wound and other things. The children responded enthusiastically throughout the classes, sometimes joking and laughing along with the troops.
The fun continued as the troops and children took to a small courtyard near the classroom to play games. The Soldiers donated the other goods in a short ceremony near the end of the visit.
They needed the donation of supplies, and it made the children happy, remarked Putra, one of the institution's teachers.
SiddiQ thanked the troops for the donation, and said he hopes they'll visit again.
"The Soldiers of America have helped us," he said. "They are welcome to return to continue our friendship."
This marks the seventh iteration of this bilateral Garuda Shield exercise since 2004. The exercise includes a combined brigade-level command post exercise based on United Nations scenario and a field-training exercise based on a Peace Keeping Operations scenario.
GS 13 involves troops from U.S. Army Pacific; the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Arm, Kostrad 1st Division; 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division; and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Darat, 17th Airborne Brigade.