By Capt. Choli Ence, 128th MPAD, UTNGJuly 27, 2010
KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia -- Utah National Guard Soldiers from the 197th Special Troops Company (Airborne) worked alongside Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Soldiers to complete construction of a local school during the humanitarian and civic assistance project for Angkor Sentinel 2010 here, July 12 - 30.
The Global Peace Operations Initiative, Angkor Sentinel 2010, co-sponsored by U.S. Army, Pacific, is a multi-national program and is the latest in a continuing series of regional exercises designed to promote peacekeeping capabilities of securities forces in both Cambodia and other countries. It has included a command-post exercise, a field-training exercise, and an HCA project.
The school-building project broke ground April 4 with the majority of the U.S. Soldiers arriving in Cambodia to assist with the construction on June 12.
Lt. Col. Holly Ottesen, operations officer with the 97th Troop Command said, "This is the first exercise that we as the 97th TC have participated in where we have been able to do a HCA project in conjunction with the exercise."
According to 1st Lt. Thomas Ashton, platoon leader of the base support platoon, 197th STC (Airborne), the school was designed by the RCAF in consultation with local education officials and contains three classrooms that will hold up to 120 students along with a separate building for restrooms.
The project has not been without its share of growing pains as both the Americans and Cambodians learned to adapt to each others different construction methods.
"We come in with our American know-how and it doesn't necessarily fit in with their Cambodian way of building structures," said Ashton.
Both the U.S. and RCAF Soldiers are working tirelessly together, however, to have the school completed by the dedication ceremony scheduled for July 29.
The U.S. and RCAF Soldiers were also assisted by Navy Seabees who were in the area drilling wells.
Prior to the construction of this school, the nearest school, Makara 7, required many of the local school children to cross a busy two-lane road.
Throughout the construction of the school, many of the local school children have frequented the construction site.
Ashton said that the best part of being involved in the HCA project is becoming a member of the community. "It's cool that the kids we know now have a school in their neighborhood and they don't have to go and risk their lives to go to school."
Spc. Paul Morrison, a supply logistical specialist with the 197th STC (Airborne) agreed, "These kids come out every day and seeing the smile of their faces is very rewarding."