Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Castaneda
Brig. Gen. Bryan Suntheimer, United States Army Pacific Deputy Commanding General for Army National Guard, Rear Adm. Jong Sam Kim, commander, Republic of Korea Navy Component 5, Vice Adm. Panya Lekbua, deputy commander-in-chief, Royal Thai Fleet and Gov. Surasak Charoensirichot, Rayong provincial governor, along with Rayong province school officials and Multi-National Forces pose for a group photo during a dedication ceremony, marking the completion of the Ban Nong Muang school expansion project in Rayong Province, Thailand, on Feb. 21, 2017. The project was a joint effort by the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, Construction and Developmental Regiment, Sattahip Naval Base and Korean Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 2nd Engineer, part of Cobra Gold 2017. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda/170221-N-WI365-361)
A dedication ceremony was held Feb. 21 at the Ban Nong Muang School in the Rayong Province of Thailand for a new school building constructed over the past month by Multi-National Forces during Exercise Cobra Gold 2017. The exercise maintains a consistent focus on humanitarian civil action to support the needs and humanitarian interests of the people of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Militaries from the Kingdom of Thailand, Republic of Korea and United States helped build the structure at Ban Nong Muang which will be used as two kindergarten classrooms. The school’s deputy director Mr. Somporn Chankhankaen, who is also a teacher, said the school needed the extra space.
“The existing building is not sufficient for the number of children,” Chankhankaen said. “The new building allows for separate classrooms, and it also increases the community’s confidence in our ability to teach their children.”
The U.S. military and partner nations completed six buildings for different schools during the past month during Exercise Cobra Gold, while also participating in community engagement events that gave service members an opportunity to interact with children.
A U.S. Navy sailor who worked on the project at Ban Nong Muang, Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Stanko from Mobile Construction Battalion 5 based in Port Hueneme, California, said these kinds of projects are what led him to enlist in the Navy as a steelworker.
“My recruiter told me to join the Seabees. He said they build schools in foreign countries for kids,” Stanko said. “I joined the Navy to do construction, but the fact that it was humanitarian appealed to me.”
When asked about his experience building the new classrooms, Stanko said,
“Well I just reenlisted for four years, so I guess you could say that it was positive!”
Stanko swore an oath to extend his military service in front of a crowd of about two hundred people that included members of the local community, multinational service members he worked with on the project, and school children who will directly benefit from his contribution.
The school’s deputy director was grateful for the new building and expressed hope the multinational partnership of Exercise Cobra Gold will continue to benefit school children across Thailand.
“I’d like to express my appreciation and gratitude that Cobra Gold has chosen to have built the building for our school,” he said. “It is my hope that buildings will continue to be built for schools in need in the future.”
The longstanding Exercise Cobra Gold, now in its 36th iteration, is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise that represents the longstanding friendship of the Thai and American people and a demonstration of their commitment to work together in support of peace and security in the region.