Partnering Nations Celebrate Pacific Unity 12-6

By 2nd Lt. Sarah Bergstein

From Operation Pacific Unity Public Affairs

ANGELES CITY, Philippines - Members of the U.S. Air Force, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Army, local contractors, government officials, teachers, students, and community members came together at Cacutud Elementary school Sept. 20 for a closing ceremony to celebrate the work of the participants in the month-long Pacific Unity 12-6 here.

U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Bednar stands with Mayor Marino Morales after cutting the ribbon during a dedication ceremony at Clark Air Force Base, Republic of the Philippines on Sept. 20, 2012. U.S. Air Force Civil Engineering Squad 647 out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor teamed up with the Republic of the Philippines Air Force to build an addition onto a local schoolhouse before dedicating it to the community. The U.S. military and Republic of the Philippines military work together to strengthen interoperability between the Philippine and U.S. government.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo/LCpl Katelyn Hunter/Released).

"U.S. Air Force, no matter where in the world you go, your good deeds will always be remembered," said Hon Marino "Boking" Morales, city mayor, Malabacat City, Pampanga. "To the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Army, the same goes for you. One day these students will become professionals, and they will be forever grateful to you."

From Aug. 20 to Sept. 20, members of the 647th Civil Engineering Squadron, Joint Based Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, partnered with members of the 355th Aviation Engineering Wing, Basa, Philippines, members of the Philippine Army Security Forces and local contractors to renovate seven classrooms and build one schoolhouse from the ground up at Cacutud Elementary school in support of Pacific Unity 12-6.

In one month, these partnering services worked together to install new roofing on each of the existing classrooms, installed new windows, renovated the toilets, and installed sinks into the bathrooms.

They also created a drainage system to prevent the rainwater from flowing into the classrooms. The team re-cemented the classroom floors and painted the buildings, among several additional projects and renovations.

Also, the Pacific Unity team built a brand new schoolhouse, which will serve as an additional classroom for the students.

The Pacific Unity mission is a U.S. Pacific Command approved and funded Humanitarian Assistance mission as well as a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) conducted in the Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with host nation civil authorities and military personnel under the direction of the 13th Air Force A7 division.

The recent humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in response to the flooding in the Philippines have demonstrated the importance of building relationships and promoting interoperability between regional militaries, as well as ensuring partnering nations are prepared to help one another when disaster strikes.

PACAF's efforts through operations like Pacific Unity are a visible expression of the United States commitment to the Asia-Pacific Region and the Republic of the Philippines and it demonstrates the importance the United States places on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

"Pacific Unity events are a cornerstone of PACAF's relief efforts--not only does it help us practice our skills, but also helps us improve our interoperability with our allies and partners," said Colonel Bednar. "Together we have reinforced existing partnerships and created new friendships in securing peaceful, prosperous relationships in the region."

This purpose of this mission is to help cultivate common bonds, foster goodwill and improve relationships between the U.S. and the Philippines.

"Thank you to all of you for transforming our school to be an avenue of learning," said Jayson Ryan T De Leon, Cacutud Elementary head teacher. "These new facilities help our children to learn and now, I assure you we will have a better and higher achievement rate among our students."

The closing ceremony highlighted the hard work and dedication of the partnering nations in completing the construction and renovation of Cacutud Elementary, where the USAF and PAF were able to join with the students, teachers and local community in order to celebrate the achievements of Pacific Unity 12-6.

"Through the years, the members of the Philippine Armed Forces and the U.S. Armed Forces teamwork has been a reliable pillar in accomplishing the Pacific Unity mission of assistance and relief, said Major Gen. Ricardo C Banayat, commander, 1st Air Division, PAF. He said he believes this noble undertaking will help the students to value education because they now have a conducive place for learning that will heighten their desire for education while becoming better persons and good citizens of the Philippines.

The next Pacific Unity-Philippines is scheduled for 2013.

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— USPACOM (posted October 2, 2012) —