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U.S., Indonesian sailors and Marines give new face to old Javanese school

15 Mar 2008 | Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua J. Wahl

U.S. and Indonesian sailors and Marines combined engineering efforts to help renovate and refurbish a schoolhouse here, March 15.

 The six-day Tactical Engineering Exercise with the Indonesian Armed Forces began March 11 and involved U.S. sailors and Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 31 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and sailors from the USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). The school, located in Sumberejo village, in Situbondo Regency here, was in dire need of a new roof, window frame upgrades, door frames and doors, and a fresh coat of paint. Approximately $15,000 was spent on the project throughout the weeklong project.

 According to U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Brian D. Woodall, the Engineer Platoon commander for CLB 31, the ENGEX was designed to build a greater engineering capacity, increase humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response capabilities, and enhance interoperability between forces.

 “We are really impressed with how well the operation is already going,” said Woodall. “Working together and observing their work techniques is very beneficial. I think we are showing both sides it is possible for us to work together if there is ever a problem or crisis in this region. We hope this launches a long lasting partnership between the two militaries.”

 At the project site, U.S. Marines and sailors with their Indonesian counterparts eagerly jumped into site preparation and successfully worked side-by-side superseding any language barriers.

 “Any time we get the opportunity to work with a foreign service, it is a beneficial experience,” Woodall said. Projects like these demonstrate the United States’ ongoing commitment to the security and stability of these nations and the entire South East Asia region.

 By midday both militaries’ site leaders looked over their accomplishments after a hard morning’s work and began discussing the strategy for the upcoming afternoon’s schedule with enthusiasm.

 “Everyone was looking forward to working with the American people, because the opinion is that the U.S. has the best trained forces,” said Indonesian Marine Sergeant Edi Kurniawan, from the 1st Zeni Marine Battalion and a site planner and architect. “I think this project will show we can work together very well.”

 The Harper’s Ferry sailors who volunteered during the exercise seemed to be more than satisfied with the task at hand.

 “Coming out here and working on a construction site is my cup tea,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel D. Weiss, construction site volunteer. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my day than picking up my tools and building a new school for the kids.”

 Harpers Ferry is part of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, which is the largest in the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet area of responsibility and is composed of the forward deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), transport dock ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), dock landing ship USS Juneau (LPD 10), the guided missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 12, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 1 and Assault Craft Unit 1 of Amphibious Squadron Eleven. The 31st MEU makes up the embarked Marine force and consists of Marine Attack Squadron 513 (VMA-513) from Yuma, Ariz., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (HMM-265) and Combat Logistic Battalion 31 both out of Okinawa, Japan.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit