ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia - Sounds of power saws and hammers can be heard emanating from the halls of a white-bricked elementary school in Bayayngol District, Ulaanbaatar, Tov province, Mongolia, June 18 where Marines are working hard to renovate it as part of the Engineering Civic Action Program of Khaan Quest 2014.
Khaan Quest is a regularly scheduled, multinational exercise co-sponsored by the United States Marine Corps Forces Pacific and United States Army Pacific and hosted by the Mongolian Armed Forces. Khaan Quest 2014 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote regional peace and security. This year marks the 12th iteration of this training event.
U.S. Marine Corps combat engineers are participating in the ENCAP alongside members of the Alaska National Guard and Mongolian Armed Forces.
The Marines are working in two groups. The first group of Marines can be seen digging a trench outside the perimeter of the schoolyard. This trench will help reinforce the new fence the Marines are building. The second group can be found inside the kindergarten, wearing brightly colored construction hard-hats and powder blue ventilation masks, for protective measures. These Marines are working by the natural light pouring in where windows have already been removed from their frames, waiting to be replaced. The old floors have been ripped up, and the Marines are mixing concrete in preparation for the new floors.
U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Pierce D. Torrence, a Rockford, Illinois native and platoon commander for A Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, supervises his platoon as the kindergarten renovations are underway.
“Right now we are putting in the fence and we will be emplacing a new playground,” explains Torrence. “We have a couple of Marines doing some floor work on the inside and tearing out some windows.”
Having the opportunity to contribute to the welfare of civilian residents is what many Marines consider to be the most rewarding part of the exercise experience. The Marines also relish the opportunity to strengthen the relationships with members of the Mongolian Armed Forces.
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas L. Heinzelman, a Twin Falls, Idaho native and platoon sergeant for A Company, 9th ESB, 3rd MLG, III MEF, takes a break from cutting wood sheathing to explain his most rewarding experience of the project.
“I consider myself very fortunate to be able to interact with the Mongolian Armed Forces and see their skillset,” expresses Heinzelman. “This is also a wonderful opportunity to experience the local culture.”
Humanitarian civic action programs conducted by U.S. and Mongolian Armed Forces during Khaan Quest 14 demonstrate a mutual commitment to support security and humanitarian interests of friends and partner nations. The programs will improve the quality of life, as well as the general health and welfare of civilian residents in the exercise areas.
The ENCAP portion of Khaan Quest 14 also includes the construction of a water distribution point and the replacement of a gymnasium lighting system at an elementary school, both in the Songinikhairkhan District. The Marines are scheduled to complete all three ENCAP initiatives by June 30, 2014.