US service members return to Thai school built during CG13[MIGRATE]

By 1st Lt. Luke Kuper | February 04, 2014

U.S. service members along with a representative of the People’s Liberation Army toured a school building Feb. 4 at the Ban Hua Wang Krang School in Phitsanulok, Kingdom of Thailand.

The building was constructed during Cobra Gold 2013 and the purpose of the visit was to reconnect with the local populace and ensure the structure was functioning as designed.

The U.S. service members are participating in a civil affairs capacity as part of the Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force during Cobra Gold 2014, the 33rd iteration of the annual exercise which takes place throughout Thailand.

The structure was completed by a combined group of Royal Thai Army members, Republic of Singapore service members and U.S. Army engineers nearly one year ago and is currently used for multiple purposes.

The three room building provides a place for students, teachers and the community to gather, according to Anek Tanompestsok, the principal of the school.

“There is an office for the management and a conference room where the staff can discuss important matters,” said Tanompestsok. “The largest room is a meeting room for students and parents. We also have plans to make it a library.”

It is evident that the school has put the building to good use and have made many improvements after the multinational force left, according to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Peter Yi, a civil affairs staff noncommissioned officer with the 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 9th Mission Support Command.

“They are very satisfied with the building,” said Yi. “The Thai people came to support and improve this school after being inspired by the work of the team last year.”

After the Royal Thai Army members departed along with their U.S. and Singaporean counterparts, the community rallied around the new building and even helped improve other aspects of the school, according to Tanompestsok.

“This building is an inspiration for people who live here in this area,” said Tanompestsok. “After the build, the (civic leaders) who live here came together to build a playground for the students.”

The project has had a lasting impact on more than just the students who use the facility every day, according to U.S. Marine Cpl. Joseph S. Burnette, a civil affairs noncommissioned officer with civil affairs detachment, G-3, operations, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“We go back to these places to see if we actually made a difference for the school and if there are ways we could make the Cobra Gold exercise better,” said Burnette. “The community came together after (the service members) left and picked up where they left off. I’m just glad we made an impact.”

Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored multinational, joint theater security cooperation exercise conducted annually in the Kingdom of Thailand.

This year’s exercise is designed to improve the capability to plan and conduct combined-joint operations, build relationships between partner nations, and improve interoperability across the range of military operations.