By Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian M KinkeadFebruary 14, 2018
The service members at Engineering Civil Actions Projects Site 4 of Exercise Cobra Gold 2018 are currently working together on a three-classroom building for the Thung Song Honsa School in the Chachoengsao province of Thailand as part of the Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) portion of the exercise.
This relationship between U.S. Soldiers and their Thai and Indonesian counterparts is extremely important because they are on a timeline, and the project they are working on is going to positively affect the lives of local children. Their language and cultural backgrounds differ, but none of them like the bugs or humidity.
Other commonalities arise as they work as a team, and today, in the middle of another long day, it is the visit from an ice cream vendor that brings them together.
"It's pretty tough out here someday," said U.S. Army Spc. Herschel Aninzo, from Guam. "We work long days, and the weather can get pretty hot. Everyone is always looking for a way to stay positive. It can be hard at times, but for the most part, it's been easy."
Aninzo said that today the ice cream was a relief. Most of the guys, no matter what country they were from, made their way to the truck before it took off.
Something as minor as ice cream becomes important. It helps boost morale and creates an opportunity for the Soldiers to make a personal connection on what has so far been a grueling but rewarding project.
Royal Thai Army Sergeant Major 1st Class Supagorn Sowada, from Srakeaw, Thailand, helped the Americans order their ice cream from the Thai vendor, during which he couldn't stop laughing and joking.
"Sometimes the Americans are super stressed, so we try to relax them with funny videos or just by poking fun. The ice cream was good to bond," said Sowapa, with a smile on his face. "It was very funny helping them order, and in return, they paid for our ice cream.
" Coming from different countries does not change the sense of fulfillment these Soldiers have from working on this project. Their separation in language does not remove any of the joy they feel, working together, realizing a shared interest.
"The ice cream truck was nice because it's one of those rare chances to have common ground with everyone," said U.S. Army Pvt. Vincent Joyce, from Guam. "It seems like something so simple. But who doesn't like ice cream? It's a pretty cool moment to see everyone smiling at the same thing during a break."
The ice cream helps in finding that common ground, and every day there are more reasons to enjoy the camaraderie.
Joyce said that for him this has been an awesome experience. The work has been rewarding, and every day he learns something new from those he has the privilege of working with side by side.
After the ice cream vendor fires up his motorcycle and drives away, the last spoonful of ice cream is soon finished. Break time is over. Almost in unison, everyone stands up, gets ready and continues working on the building project, picking up right where they had left off, but now refreshed, with smiles on their faces and a little extra hop in their steps.
The Chachoengsao locals, Royal Thai, U.S. and Indonesian Armed Forces are working the construction project for Exercise Cobra Gold 18 with a final completion ceremony planned for 22 FEB 2018. Humanitarian civic assistance projects conducted during the exercise support the needs and humanitarian interests of the Thai people. Cobra Gold 18 is an annual exercise conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand and runs from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations.