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U.S. Army reservists aid Indonesia in humanitarian effort

Jun 16, 2010

By Spc. Emerson Marcus

BANDUNG, Indonesia -- On the outskirts of the heavily-populated and poverty-stricken city of Bandung, American and Indonesian forces have banned together to build a civic center and baby care clinic as part of Operation Garuda Shield 2010, a training and humanitarian exercise in Indonesia.

Leading the American effort is the 9th Mission Support Command, who serves as the executive agent for Garuda Shield by exercising operational control, planning the logistical coordination, providing life support and supplying personnel in support of U.S. Army, Pacific's directives.

Soldiers from the 797th Engineer Company, 411th Engineering Battalion, 9th Mission Support Command, started the humanitarian projects May 25 and are expected to have them completed by June 21. Additional projects include a water-retaining system and the improvement of a village amphitheatre.

"We are ahead of schedule," said Capt. Alejandro Buniag, commander of the 797th Engineering Company, 411th Engineering Battalion, 9th Mission Support Command. "I can speak for myself and my Soldiers that we do get an intrinsic feeling we are making a difference in the community."

The 797th engineers are aiding Indonesian soldiers in villages located in Cipatat, West Java by assisting Indonesia's 9th Combat Engineering Battalion with the construction.

"We can conduct these missions anywhere, but it wouldn't have the same impact for two different parties," said Col. Tony Diaz, commander of Operation Garuda Shield and member of the 9th Mission Support Command. "Seeing our Soldiers working next to their Soldiers is beneficial to our training needs and their communities."

More than 250 households are expected to benefit from the project. Each village stands in a densely-populated area that relies heavily on agriculture to survive.

The villages were picked based on local government suggestion and their location near the Indonesian army's Infantry Training Center, officials said.

"These centers will be my new place for praying and for meetings," said Ratih, a local single mother with three children. "It will be very good."

Humanitarian civic activities, such as the one in Cipatat, also serve as training for American Soldiers and learning experiences for the Indonesians.

"I appreciate that Americans are willing to get their hands dirty and work like this even though they are such a powerful Army," said Capt. Hanif Tupen, commander of the Indonesian army's 9th Engineering Battalion. "I'm amazed by the tools they have to help."

Tupen said he will take what he has learned from American Soldiers and apply it to future peacekeeping missions. Indonesian engineers will deploy to Lebanon for a peacekeeping mission later this year.

In all, Operation Garuda Shield's construction efforts are expected to give more than 1,500 Indonesian civilians access to new facilities and two armies - Indonesian and American - increased engineering intelligence and a strengthened relationship.

The 797th Engineer Company is an Army Reserve unit based out of Guam.

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