9th Mission Support Command builds relationships and schools in Thailand

By Maj. Melodie Tafao | 9th Mission Support Command | March 24, 2020

SUKHATHAI PROVINCE, Thailand —

The 797th Engineer Company under the 411th Engineer Battalion, 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 9th Mission Support Command, alongside the Royal Thai Army and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, constructed a multipurpose, two-room building in Sukhathai Province, Thailand, during Exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

The 39th iteration of Cobra Gold was co-sponsored by the Royal Thai Armed Forces and the U.S. Armed Forces. The exercise took place Feb. 25 to March 6 and focused on humanitarian civic action, cyber, amphibious assault, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and combined arms live fire. The 797th Engineer Company has participated in the Cobra Gold HCA exercise six non consecutive years including this year.

“This is the longest running international military exercise in the world,” said Michael Heath, U.S. Embassy in Thailand chargĂ© d’affaires during the opening ceremonies. “While Cobra Gold is founded on the long and rich history of U.S.-Thai friendship, the exercise is clearly focused on the future and has grown to showcase multilateral friendship and interoperability.”

And what better way to focus on the future than to build a school house for the future generation of the local populace.

“This was a project to construct a 20.3 meter by 7.8 meter multipurpose building at the Ban Dan Sai School in Wang Ta Khro village of the Sukhothai Province, Thailand,” said the Project Officer-in-Charge, 1st Lt. Joshua Flatley. “The administration of the school chose to have a two-room design built in a one-third, two-thirds layout. The large room will be an activity room with a library. This room will also serve as the meeting room for the village to hold and host village and religious communal gatherings. The small room is going to be the computer and technology room.”

The project is not only advantageous for the local populace, but the U.S. Army Reserve engineers had the opportunity to work alongside the RTA and JGSDF, building friendships and interoperability.

“The RTA and JGSDF were excellent partners in this mission,” said Flatley. “The JGSDF had five engineer Soldiers assigned for the duration of the mission. They were very technical and very much ready to complete the mission expediently and to the best construction practices known. Without their assistance, the building would not have been completed as efficiently as it was nor on the schedule we completed.”

Flatley also appreciated and commended the Royal Thai Army and their work.

“The RTA assigned 14 engineer Soldiers and 6 security guards for the duration of the mission. Their work effort was second to none, and with the direction of their leadership and their working knowledge of the Thai language and building practice, we were able to communicate with vendors, the villagers and the likes,” he said.

The 797th Engineers did their part as well.

“I have to give tremendous accolades to the 797th Engineer Company. The Non-Commissioned Officer Corps of the unit, the tenacity of the soldiers and the dedication to the mission was abundantly apparent throughout the entire mission,” said Flatley. “All three nations provided input and cohesively combined experiences to complete the mission.”

The local community of the Wang Ta Khro village in the Sukhothai Province was very supportive of the efforts of the Cobra Gold HCA exercise and played a role in completing this mission.

“We would receive a few workers (from the community) during the week and up to 50 workers volunteering their time on the weekends to support our efforts,” Flatley explained. “The families of the workers would come and prepare lunch and drinks for everyone for the day.”

The professionalism and work ethic of all three forces and the community’s contribution were major factors in the completion of the project ahead of schedule.

“Overall, I think the 797th Engineers represented the 9th MSC and the U.S Army Reserve Command in the greatest manner possible. I believe we have accomplished the mission of building and sustaining relationships with the Kingdom of Thailand and in the region.”