RAYONG PROVINCE, Thailand –
Ban Khao Ta-in School is located in the remote village of Chum Saeng in Rayong Province, Thailand. The thick jungle and unforgiving terrain of Thailand’s remote areas make schools such as this essential to the people of this small village. As part of this year’s iteration of Cobra Gold, the government of the Kingdom of Thailand partnered with the U.S. and other allies to provide infrastructure improvements to this essential school.
The 9th Mission Support Command’s 871st Engineer Vertical Construction Company (EVCC), based out of Hilo, HI traversed 17 Time zones and over 6,000 miles of open-ocean to bring their skills and expertise to the distant village of Chum Saeng. While time, distance and culture may separate the two towns, the Soldiers of the 871st share distinct and specific similarities with the people of Chum Saeng.
“I was born and raised in Rayong Province. My own elementary school is little less than an hour away,” said 1st Lt. Apisit Meejaiyen, 871st EVCC platoon leader and officer-in-charge for the Ban Khao Ta-in School construction project. “This mission is a dream come true, I am back in my hometown and I am giving back to the community in which I was raised.”
Executing a construction project in a foreign country, among allies from different nations brought its fair share of challenges.
“The different construction techniques, type of equipment utilized and materials used for construction are all completely different from what my Soldiers are used to. However, our allies’ work ethic, determination and generosity is simply amazing and the sharing of knowledge between my Soldiers and our fellow allies involved in this project will only improve their skillset for future missions,” said Meejaiyen.
Mobilizing a platoon of Soldiers and transporting those Soldiers over 6,000 miles to execute a construction project during the COVID-19 era added an extra layer of complexity to this already complex mission.
“Ever-changing travel restrictions and added requirements was a constant challenge during the planning process of this mission,” said Meejaiyen. “It was only through the assistance of our allies and government of the Kingdom of Thailand officials that we were able to come here and execute this mission.”
For the Soldiers of the 871st, this mission is more than a simple construction project.
Meejaiyen also said, “In our increasingly globalized world and diversified workforce, sensitivity to culture is extremely important. Cobra Gold 2022 helps increase Soldiers’ cultural sensitivity by allowing them to operate in a multicultural and multinational environment.”
For the 9th MSC and the U.S. Army Reserve, missions like this continue to foster stronger relationships with our allies through shared purpose. This ensures the stability and prosperity of communities throughout the Pacific and South East Asia regions.