KWO KAEN, Kingdom of Thailand --
Exercise Cobra Gold 2011 civil affairs projects will help improve local populations' perceptions of the U.S. military while improving their lives, said a civil affairs Marine with Cobra Gold 2011.
Helping people is a primary concern during humanitarian civic assistance projects, said Cpl. Michael Mize, an Akron, Ohio, native and civil affairs noncommissioned officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force.
During Cobra Gold 2011, civil affairs Marines are spear-heading community-relationship building efforts by gathering information on what local Thai populations need to improve their lives, explained civil affairs personnel. The information civil affairs Marines gather is used to plan the humanitarian civic assistance projects during Cobra Gold 2011.
Input from local leaders is very important to this process, said Capt. Alistair Howard, a San Diego native and civil affairs team leader with III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Before the initial planning process can begin, military officials meet with provincial leadership to pinpoint what the U.S. Marine Corps can do to improve the life-style of isolated populations, said Howard.
"We sit down with town mayors and village elders to decide where a classroom or municipal purpose center would have the most impact," said Howard.
After discussing with local officials where new structures would best serve would best serve local people, civil affairs Marines visit proposed locations and conduct atmospheric surveys. During atmospheric surveys, civil affairs Marines gather input from those living near the proposed construction site. They ask local families and officials how new structures should be built, Howard said.
"I think of us as the people's people," he said. "During the atmospheric surveys, we ask for the smaller details like where to put windows so students aren't looking out at the playground while they are supposed to be concentrating on class or using a type of cement block that allows humidity to escape from the top of the classroom."
While construction on a project progresses, civil affairs Marines continue building relationships with local communities by involving the local townsfolk in the construction process, Howard said.
"Sometimes a piece of equipment breaks down, and the local people lend us the part that's needed to fix it," said Howard. "It lets the people know that we're not here to just build the place and leave. They are a part of this project as much as we are."
If local people have any issues with a construction project, civil affairs Marines will work with them to help resolve those issues, Howard added.
"We want the people to know who the good guys are and the personal interaction the (U.S.) Marine Corps promotes during Cobra Gold is achieving just that," said Mize.
For more information about Cobra Gold 2011, visit the Cobra Gold 2011 web site www.marines.mil/unit/iiimef/pages/cg2011 or visit the Cobra Gold 2011 Facebook page at www.facebook.com/exercisecobragold.