Hawaiian Reservists strengthen U.S., Indonesian partnership through humanitarian mission
by Spc. Elizabeth Cole, 9th Mission Support Command, Army.mil
BOGOR, Indonesia, June 15, 2011 -- Hawaii-based U.S. Army Reservists have partnered with Indonesian soldiers to build a large community center and a public market that will benefit a village in Situ Gede, which is located in the outskirts of Bogor, Indonesia.
The Maui and Big Island Reserve Soldiers of the 871st Engineer Company, 411th Engineer Battalion, 9th Mission Support Command, are conducting the humanitarian civic action project as part of Exercise Garuda Shield.
Sponsored by U.S. Army, Pacific and hosted by the Indonesian Armed Forces, Exercise Garuda Shield is an annual, bilateral exercise designed to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Indonesian Armed Forces.
Working side by side with their Indonesian counterparts, the Army Reservists are forging new relationships while gaining real world experience in their trade.
“This is a very unique training experience,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Ruhnke, commander of the 871st En. Co. “We are building relationships and learning new ways to do our job. All different parts of the world use different tactics for completing a job, and we are experiencing that first hand.”
Although the Soldiers don’t speak the same language, Sgt. 1st Class Todd Uyehara, noncommissioned officer in charge of the project, explained they are integrating well together and helping each other learn their respective language.
“There seems to be no communication barrier when [the Indonesians] are teaching,” said Pfc. Owen Tobias, 871st En. Co. “We all use hand gestures to communicate.”
With construction scheduled to take less than two months, both U.S. and Indonesian Soldiers are working long hours to complete the mission. Taking notice of the hard work being done, local villagers are lending a helping hand to the Soldiers.
“The locals are doing anything from picking up brick at the work site to preparing food and bringing drinks for the Soldiers,” said Uyehara. “They want to do their part because they know it will benefit them in the end.”
1st Lt. Nanang Sujarwanto, operations staff engineer and officer in charge, Tentara Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian Armed Forces), echoed his sentiments.
“The locals are very happy about what we are doing here,” said Sujarwanto. “They show their appreciation by bringing what little food and drinks they have. The community feels a great sense of pride.”
Through this humanitarian mission, Ruhnke said they are not only able to help provide the community with the new buildings but they are stimulating the local economy as well.
“We were able to contract with some local vendors and contractors to supply our materials and also help with things like the roofs of the buildings,” said Ruhnke. “It is a real privilege to work with the Indonesians.”
The community center opening ceremony is slated for June 22.