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Balikatan 18: U.S. and Philippine Engineers Partner to Finish First

By Sgt. Scott Smolinski | III Marine Expeditionary Force | May 14, 2018

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U.S. Air Force and Philippine Army engineers completed the construction of a two-classroom building at Alibagu Elementary School on May 5, the first engineering civic action program (ENCAP) site to finish construction during Exercise Balikatan.

Over one month of laying cinder blocks, pouring concrete, and mixing mortar in the sweltering Luzon heat paid off for the combined team of engineers from 18th Civil Engineer Squadron out of Kadena Air Base and the Philippine Army’s 513th Engineering Construction Battalion.

There are five ENCAP sites at various locations on the island of Luzon as part of the 34th iteration of Balikatan. Armed forces from the U.S., Philippines, Australia, and Japan worked tirelessly together to complete these projects ahead of schedule.

Air Force 1st Lt. Jesse O’Connor, the 18 CES site officer-in-charge, attributed his site team’s success to the cooperation between the different militaries.

“Working together, we were able to complete numerous [individual] tasks while working towards our unified objective,” said O’Connor, 26, of Chicago, Illinois.

“Our Airmen and the Philippine troops formed one seamless team,” said site foreman, Master Sgt. John AguilarMunoz, with 18 CES, from Artesia, New Mexico. “We had daily discussions on the tasks to be completed and sought each other’s guidance when problems arose.”

The engineers of ENCAP site 2 were able to hone their skills while learning new techniques from their respective counterparts.

“Balikatan” is a Tagalog word that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together”. It captured the spirit of the exercise to showcase the combined efforts of the multinational forces to accomplish the engineering project.

“We had cooperation, coordination, and trust in the Army and Air Force engineers,” said Philippine Army Jaydie Bilaque, site 2 officer-in-charge for 513th Engineer Construction Battalion.

The ribbon cutting ceremonies for the ENCAP projects are scheduled beginning the week of May 15.

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