PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Republic of the Philippines --
Brigadier Gen. Craig Timberlake, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, joined humanitarian civil affairs Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during an engineering project re-visitation here, Oct. 15.
The 31st MEU is on the island of Palawan conducting various HCA missions, ranging from free medical treatment stations to miscellaneous construction projects as part of Philippine Bilateral Amphibious Landing Exercise 13.
Part of the HCA mission during the course of PHIBLEX is the requirement to revisit other locations on the island where engineering civil affairs projects were conducted in previous exercises. One former HCA project was the construction of a two-classroom building, restrooms and water tanks for plumbing during Exercise Balikatan earlier this year.
"We revisit these previous ENCAP sites to ensure the facilities we constructed have fulfilled the purpose we intended as well as to keep the trust between us and the locals," said Gunnery Sgt. Cyrus Nator, civil military officer for the 31st MEU and native of Naga City, Camarines Sur, Republic of the Philippines. "We don't help out the schools and then forget about them; we go back to show we care about the communities."
Timberlake accompanied Nator as he visited the previous ENCAP site of Santa Cruz Elementary School and the current medical and dental civil affairs project at Tagburos Elementary School.
The MED/DENCAP at Tagburos is the last of two medical aid events where Sailors with the 31st MEU provided free medical and dental care to the local Filipinos.
"Any time we can do something for the locals and their children, it is a great project to undertake," said Timberlake. "Whether it is building classrooms or giving medical attention, it is as beneficial for our Marines and Sailors as it is for the community."
Every year the MEU conducts multi-national training evolutions with allied Asia-Pacific militaries, and a group of the Marines and Sailors are dedicated to HCA missions. These projects are essential to overall relationship-building within the host communities, and the results are overwhelmingly positive.
"With the increase in students before the new classroom was built, we did not have the proper facilities to teach in," said Jasmin Jasmin, principal of the Santa Cruz Elementary School. "The Marines fixed that and definitely made our school a better institution, as they do for whatever locations they visit."
In Palawan, the group has completed two MED/DENCAPS, two ENCAPS, four COMRELS and one site re-visitation.
PHIBLEX, now in its 29th iteration, is an annually-scheduled bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Philippine forces, aimed at increasing interoperability and strengthening a long standing relationship. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.