By Capt. Amy Bombassaro Slinker, Alaska Army National Guard Public AffairsAugust 18, 2010
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia - Guam-based, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 797th Engineer Company, which is a subordinate unit of the 411th Engineer Battalion and 9th Mission Support Command, are working side by side with Mongolian Armed Forces here to provide humanitarian assistance as part of U.S. Army, Pacific's exercise Khaan Quest.
More than 20 Soldiers of the 797th Engineer Company have served as engineers, carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers and laborers to construct a public bath house facility since early July. Now their efforts are near complete, with an expected project completion date of Aug. 21.
1st Lt. George Sablan, 797th officer in charge, said the team is determined to have the facility operational by the end of this week. Sablan said that many of the surrounding homes do not have running water, so residents of the area rely on water distribution points. Electricity is known to be sparse in the area as well.
"We take this luxury for granted every day back home," Sablan said. "I can't imagine taking a cold shower at -20 degrees [Fahrenheit] in December."
The brick and mortar structure is approximately 350 square meters. It will provide 12 shower stalls, four latrines and three family shower stalls. The building will also include a barber shop and salon.
Construction activity has included water well drilling, and installation of a boiler and septic tanks. The entire building is insulated and the roof design includes downspouts to allow for effective snow melting in the winter.
The Mongolians and U.S. Soldiers have developed relationships throughout the project, whether they're trading construction techniques or sharing stories over meals.
Byambaa Oiuou, a senior leader in the Mongolian Armed Forces, has been installing light fixtures in shower stalls.
"I'm so happy to work with the American Soldiers," said Oiuou. "This will help families and improve their lives."
Spc. Bertha Duenas, a plumber with the 797th Engineer Company, has been working alongside Oiuou. This is the first overseas mission for Duenas, who has served in the Reserves for a year. She is a traditional part-time Reservist, and works full time as a reading and special education teacher at Inarajan Middle School in Inarajan, Guam.
"This has been a great experience. It has been a lot of work -- it's hard work -- but it's been rewarding knowing we're helping these people," said Duenas. "I feel very lucky to be here."
The days ahead will include plaster work and installation of doors, bathroom fixtures and light fixtures. The team will paint the interior and exterior of the building, level the exterior grounds, and pour concrete sidewalks.
Sablan said the new building will improve the quality of life and the general health and welfare of the residents in the area.
"The best thing about this project is that my Soldiers care. I know they want to finish this, not just because it's a mission, but they actually care about the purpose of the building," said Sablan. "We look at it as more than just a structure; it may be a stepping stone in the right direction for other projects in this area. It has a sentimental value to us."