ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia --
The engineering site in Nalaikh district was once cluttered with lumber, bricks and mounds of loose gravel as heavy equipment operators negotiated around the mess to demolish portions of a rundown building.
Less than a month later, the same site is full of government leaders and high-ranking military officials, and the local community has a newly renovated school.
Canadian and Mongolian Armed Forces personnel joined U.S. Marines and Washington Army National Guard soldiers at Erdmiin Orgil School for the ribbon-cutting and closing ceremony during exercise Khaan Quest’s Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) project and Cooperative Health Engagement (CHE), Aug. 13.
“In addition to conducting humanitarian outreach, one of the goals of construction projects such as these are to improve the engineer readiness of our personnel,” said Maj. Gen. Gary Hara, deputy commanding general of Army National Guard for U.S. Army Pacific.
Construction specialists from the MAF’s 017 Engineer Battalion, the Marine Corps’ 9th Engineer Support Battalion, Canada’s 1 Engineer Support Unit and 96th Troop Command, WAARNG, worked side-by-side to complete the project.
Medical personnel from the U.S., Mongolia, Canada, India and Republic of Korea also stood in a platoon formation during the ceremony. They had recently concluded a CHE in Nalaikh district, as well as a Subject Matter Expert Exchange at the MAF’s Central Clinical Hospital in Ulaanbaatar.
“I trust that the Mongolian Armed Forces personnel … are able to apply these lessons when participating in humanitarian assistance/disaster relief or peace support projects in the future,” Hara said. “I am certain that American soldiers and Marines also benefitted from this unique opportunity.”
His MAF counterpart echoed those sentiments.
“This exercise has been organized to increase the strength of (our nation’s) civil-military relationship,” said Maj. Gen. B. Bayarmagnai, deputy chief of general staff, Mongolian Armed Forces. “All participants in this exercise have learned from the experience.”
Military engineers from Mongolia and the U.S. started the construction project July 20, while Canadian Forces personnel arrived in early August.
The trilateral team replaced the roof, windows, front stairs and interior doors, "re-stuccoed" the exterior, applied emulsion and repainted the building. They also tore down a structurally unsound concrete awning at the main entrance and build a handicap-accessible ramp at the front of the school.
“We worked very well together,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Elliott, officer-in-charge of U.S. forces participating the ENCAP project and a platoon commander with 9th ESB out of Okinawa, Japan.
“We made sure we met with one another every night to work out the plan for the following day,” Elliot said, adding that once the MAF and U.S. engineers adapted to the language barrier and learned how to effectively communicate with one another the project began moving forward smoothly.
U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Piper Campbell said she was impressed with the level of interoperability demonstrated between the engineers and medical professionals.
“The skills that you use in these exercises are skills that you all will likely use again, probably in some far-flung places,” Campbell said. “Also, you’ve provided some very substantial and concrete benefits for the community.”
The training value and community outreach is sure to continue, as planning for next year’s exercise starts shortly after the official end of Khaan Quest 2013, Aug. 14.
“I would like to express my sincere wish that the projects we’re opening today will be only part of an ever-growing number of future Mongolian-American cooperation,” Hara said. “Our countries continue to build a great friendship, one that I sincerely hope will continue to endure for generations to come.”