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Marines, sailors gear up for BIP '09

US Marine Corps News

8/7/2009 By Cpl. Heather Golden, Marine Corps Bases Japan

CHILMARI, Bangladesh — Marine engineers from Company A, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and sailors from 3rd Medical and Dental Battalions began preparations for the Bangladesh Interoperability Program, July 30, here.

The program which is scheduled to run from Aug. 1-11, is a bilateral operation that promotes joint military cooperation and goodwill between both Bangladesh and the United States.

During the event, U.S. service members will work with their Bangladeshi counterparts in

conducting an Engineering Civil Action Project, building two schools, and a Medical/Dental Civil Action Project, conducting joint medical and dental clinics for the local population here.

"We are here to work with the Bangladeshi military, as they are an allied country with the United States," said Capt. Matthew Birthinet, the American forces' detachment officer in charge, 9th ESB.

"We're here to foster goodwill with the Bangladeshis who we are providing these services for. It is also about building the people's confidence and appreciation for their own military."

In order to ensure the mission's success, the troops had two days to identify and prepare against potential issues that would inhibit mission accomplishment.

"The biggest challenge on the engineering side will be the weather," Birthinet said, referring to the rain that surrounded the area the first day the service members arrived at Chilmari. "So far, it has held out pretty well."

The engineers took advantage of the sunny weather and wasted no time pre-constructing what they could before departing to the construction site.

"Once we get all the material, we like to start prepare by measuring and cutting the wood to minimize the time we have to spend at the worksite," said Birthinet, from Reading, Pa. "We will have the trusses pre-fabricated, as well as some of the portions of the walls and floors. This way they (the engineers) can assemble on-site instead of having to construct them (the pre-fabricated sections) on-site."

Meanwhile, medical personnel spent their preparation time sorting and organizing dozens of boxes of medical supplies to accommodate the large expected turnout.

"For medical, one of the bigger challenges will be crowd control," Birthinet said. "A lot of people will turn out, and not all of them will have the opportunity to be seen."

Bangladeshi soldiers will provide security for the ENCAP and MEDCAP sites to maintain crowd control and ensure the overall safety of the American teams.

"Security, crowds, they are not problems," said Bangladeshi Army Senior Warrant Officer Mohammad Hamid, who handles the security and transportation, as well as the living facilities of both Bangladeshi and American troops while in Chilmari. "No problems, twenty-four-seven."

Hamid spoke through Lance Cpl. Mohammad Razzaque, a translator who is originally from Bangladesh.

Language differences can be another barrier, according to Navy. Lt. Rudy Medina, the (MEDCAP) officer in charge, from 3rd Med. Bn.

"We will be utilizing our Bangladeshi counterparts, as they speak English well," Medina added.

Despite the difficulties that lay ahead, excitement is a general consensus among the troops, both American and Bangladeshi.

"I look forward to working with their military and seeing what their techniques are with the technology they have," said Lance Cpl. Vincent Reynoso, an engineer with 9th ESB, from Los Angeles.

"We create better friendships and good relationships," added Hamid, from Rangpur, Bangladesh.

"By working together, we all learn."

This is the first deployment for Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Ervin, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Med. Bn., and the experience is already an eye-opener.

"I was overwhelmed with the poverty out here," said Ervin, from Hemingway, S.C. "Overwhelmed, but excited to make a difference. You see it, and you feel like you want to do something to help.

There is only so much we can do, and it seems like it is only a small difference. But, maybe it might end up being a big difference to somebody."

"Humanitarian missions are the way to go," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Zachary McGhee, a hospital corpsman from 3rd Den. Bn., from Cleveland. "This is why I joined, to help people. This is the perfect deployment for me. I couldn't ask for anything better."

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