CHON BURI PROVINCE, Thailand — U.S. Navy and Army servicemembers, assigned to Pacific Partnership 2019, along with their partner nation counterparts from the Royal Thai Armed Forces conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the new library at the Ban Surasak School, May 23.
For the past month, U.S. Navy and Army servicemembers have worked alongside Thai engineers at the Ban Surasak School to construct a library, which was also designed to function as a shelter in the event of a natural disaster.
“When I think about the school’s future, a lasting impact comes to mind,” said Capt. Randy Van Rossum, mission commander of Pacific Partnership 2019. “There are several aspects of this project that truly demonstrate the meaning of Pacific Partnership. Over the past few weeks, the United States and Thai construction workers have come together to improve the community’s infrastructures, ultimately increasing our ability to effectively respond when disaster hits.”
The construction of this library holds special meaning for Van Rossum because his wife is a schoolteacher and his daughter will soon become one. He also stated that education is key in disaster preparedness.
“Education is critical and having a safe environment for knowledge growth enables community resilience, which is vital in times of crisis,” said Van Rossum. “Giving our teachers and students the proper resources, such as a safe library to learn in, is the key to our future success as partner nations.”
The library was not the only thing built, the U.S. Navy Sailors, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4 and U.S. Army Reserve Engineers, assigned to 377th Engineer Company, worked side-by-side with the Royal Thai Mobile Development Unit to build relationships, exchange knowledge and learn different techniques from each another.
“I feel such joy when I look at the completed library and know that we were able to work alongside our American partners to make this happen,” said Royal Thai Army Major Itt Potisuwan, the deputy of Royal Thai Mobile Development Unit 14. “However, what brings me the most joy is when I remember all the learning and laughter that took place here. This library was built with love and happiness and I look forward to seeing the children for years to come, walk into this library to grow and learn together as we did alongside our American counterparts.”
Some of the most prominent areas of knowledge exchange included stucco and welding techniques.
“I remember the first day on the site, I saw a young American man who did not have much experience in welding, and I could see the nervousness in his eyes,” said Potisuwan. “However, I sent one of my welders over to him, and even though they did not speak the same language, they did not need it because they let their tools talk for them. Towards the end of the project, I happened to see that same young man from that first day, and he was welding with such confidence, and it brought such pride to my heart. Pacific Partnership gave those two welders a chance to learn and teach one another and along the way came a lasting friendship. Being a witness to this type of thing was truly a humbling experience and what I believe this mission is all about.”
Another ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for the new construction of a restroom facility at the Ban Mabfugthong School.
Pacific Partnership, now in its 14th iteration, is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. Each year, the mission team works collectively with host and partner nations to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase stability and security in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships across the Indo-Pacific.