PALAWAN, Republic of the Philippines --
They traded their rifles for power saws, their ammunition for concrete and their bayonets for hammers.
Combat engineers of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, in support of III Marine Expeditionary Brigade, worked together with Philippine Marines of 312 Marine Company, Marine Battalion Landing Team 12, Naval Forces West, to complete renovations to Ranzang National High School, Oct. 26.
The work involved installing a ceiling, installing a water catching tank, installing gutters, applying stucco inside and out, painting inside and out, installing doors, installing windows and building a two-stall bathroom.
The high school was chosen for renovation based on its needs and the Philippine Marines’ desire to help the area.
“We are very happy to help the peaceful people of South Palawan,” said Philippine Marine Staff Sgt. Pamfilo Yacat Jr., an engineer with 312 Marine Company, BLT 12.
In addition to the improvements to the high school, the project also assisted the communities of Palawan by introducing more than $10,000 to the local economy. Construction materials for the project were purchased locally.
“Some of the materials came from Puerto Princesa, some from Quezon,” said 1st Lt. Jessica Sims, engineer platoon commander for Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU. “All of the wood, brick and concrete were purchased locally.”
The US and Philippine Marine team were given ten days to complete the project, and completed their work on the 10th day. The significant workload required the eight US Marines and five Philippine Marines on the project to use all of their allotted time. The considerable contribution of the Philippine Marines allowed the project to make the deadline.
“Our Philippine Marine counterparts were experienced, extremely helpful and they helped us get the job done a lot faster,” said Sims.
The engineering project was part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2012, an annual bilateral training exercise involving US and Philippine armed forces, designed to increase interoperability.
The specialized training is designed to test and demonstrate the team’s capabilities during humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.
“The joint force of US Marines and Philippine Marines is a good relationship,” said Yacat Jr. “There is always good performance, from every Marine.”
The 31st MEU is the U.S. force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific, and currently serves as the only continuously forward deployed Marine Air Ground Task Force.