Fort Magsaysay, Philippines Aca,!" Children moved furtively around the outskirts of the compound, while adults peered from across the narrow road, as a band of uniformed military personnel alit from a large bus; their presence almost doubling the population of the neighborhood.

The Soldiers, assigned to the U.S. ArmyAca,!a,,cs 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, Guam National Guard, together with soldiers from the Republic of the Philippines ArmyAca,!a,,cs 49th Infantry Battalion, were there to aid the neighborhood in fixing their cherished, yet aging, elementary school.

This project is part of Balikatan 2009, an annual exercise which brings together the militaries from the US and the RP to ensure military readiness and interoperability in the event of a natural disaster and provide humanitarian relief needs.

The soldiers worked together to clean, paint and repair the schoolAca,!a,,cs buildings and community facilities.

Both countriesAca,!a,,c soldiers also provided similar assistance at four other locations to include the Palatac Child Care Center and the Senior Citizen Center, Palatac Elementary School, Liwayway Elementary School and the Pangatian Concentration Camp Memorial Park.

Aca,!A"The community was supportive and pleasantly surprised,Aca,!A? said 1st Lt. John Salas, a platoon leader assigned to the 1st Bn., 294th Inf. Regt., who supervised the Palatac Elementary School project. Aca,!A"They even brought us a little food.Aca,!A?

He said the U.S. Soldiers enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside their Philippine Army comrades.

Along with helping the local population, the U.S. Soldiers assigned to the Pangatian Concentration Camp Memorial were able to learn the history of the concentration camp. It was the site of one of the most successful rescue missions in World War II. The mission was spearheaded by U.S. Army Rangers and officers and men of the Filipino resistance movement.

Aca,!A"It was a good location. The Soldiers walked around and learned a part of history,Aca,!A? said to 1st Lt. Darrell Fejarang, an officer assigned to the 1st Bn., 294th Inf. Regt. And officer in charge for the team assigned to the Pangatian Concentration Camp Memorial park.

Soldiers also noted they wanted to return to the school sites and finish projects they said needed to completion.

This is the 25th year the RP has hosted Balikatan. During the course of the month-long exercise the US and RP militaries of will conduct several joint medical, dental and engineering civic military operations throughout the country in the spirit of the Tagalog word Aca,!A"balikatan,Aca,!A? meaning Aca,!A"shoulder-to-shoulder.Aca,!A?