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US, Philippine service members work together during PACANGEL

by Senior Master Sgt. J.C. Woodring
Operation Pacific Angel-Philippines

3/12/2013 - DUMAGUETE, Philippines (AFNS) -- A joint team of U.S. service members traveled to the Philippines to participate in Operation Pacific Angel March 4 through 11.

Operation Pacific Angel is a U.S. Pacific Command humanitarian mission that sends primary care, dental, optometry and civil engineer experts to different countries each year to partner with their militaries and other non-governmental organizations. This marks the sixth year of the operation, and Pacific Angel-Philippines is the first trip of the year.

During this trip, dental technicians visited an elementary school here to teach the students about oral hygiene
Staff Sgt. Richard Glass and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Lyons used a giant toothbrush and a mock set of teeth to show students how to properly brush and keep their teeth healthy.

"It was really nice helping out the little kids so they can take care of their teeth so they don't have dental problems in the future," said Glass, who is from Misawa Air Base, Japan.
After their presentation, each of the students received a free toothbrush.

"It makes me feel really good to see all the children are so happy over receiving a toothbrush -- something everybody back home takes for granted," Lyons said. "They are overjoyed over a toothbrush."

The students compared the color of their toothbrush with their friends and even posed for photos with them.

"I think the visit went wonderful," Glass said.

The same day, a team of PACANGEL civil engineers installed a water tower at an elementary school.

Before the tower was installed, the school received its water from nearby residents, said Judith Cofino, a teacher at Tugawe Elementary School.

"When (the civil engineers) visited in December, they said that they couldn't make promises -- and there it is," she said while pointing to the shiny tank on top of the tower and smiling from ear to ear. "We are very grateful."

Now that the tower is operational, the residents come to the school for water because the pressure is better than existing facilities. The engineers noticed and added showers to the bathrooms.

The whole town wants to come to the school to shower," said Tech. Sgt. Chad Gerrits, who worked on the last-minute install. "It was wild!"

The team also painted the school's restrooms and wash troughs, which serve 242 students.

"I came to the Philippines with last year's PACANGEL team, and I jumped at the chance to go again this year," said Senior Airman Taylor Vondrasek, a civil engineer. "Seeing the difference we are making is incredible. They are so appreciative of what we are doing."

Tugawe is one of three schools the civil engineers improved during the mission.

Airmen and Marines joined with 26 of their Filipino counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to complete the renovation of a third and final school.

The engineers completely restored a classroom that will serve as a computer room at Bio-Os Elementary School.

"We rewired the entire building, added additional electrical outlets and put fans on the ceiling," said Tech. Sgt. Carlton Hill, a civil engineer.

Besides the electrical work, the team repaired the plumbing for the restroom, replaced the drywall throughout the building, added windows and created a room divider. Then, they painted the inside and outside of the building, the school's perimeter wall and its main gate.

"It was great to team up with our American counterparts," said Armed Forces Philippines Pfc. Michael Durno.

Durno said, as an engineer, he is used to repairing buildings like schools, but working with the Americans was a nice change.

"I learned some things about how they do things and I think they learned about ways we do things as well," he said.

As the engineers completed work at each site, they redistributed the people to cover the other sites.

"All of our guys worked hard to get as much accomplished as possible before we need to leave," said Master Sgt. Peter Stewart, the lead engineer planner for the mission. "If we have the supplies, we are going to do what we can to help."

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