Thai students, community come together to paint school during Cobra Gold 2014

13 Feb 2014 | 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

PHITSANULOK, Kingdom of Thailand – Children lined up anxiously, crowding in closer to Singapore Army 1st. Sgt. Kenneth Soh, who held up a bright blue paint brush. The first student came forward and nervously grabbed the handle, Soh patiently helped with the first few strokes of the brush. In short order, the entire building was surrounded by children laughing and painting.

Royal Thai airmen, Singapore Army soldiers and U.S. service members painted a newly constructed multipurpose building Feb. 13 alongside local community members and students of the Ban Tabaek Ngam School in Phitsanulok, Kingdom of Thailand, during Cobra Gold 2014.

Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored multinational, joint theater security cooperation exercise conducted annually in the Kingdom of Thailand.

When the students and community have a hand in the building process, it creates a stronger bond between the multinational service members and the people they are assisting, according to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Jewett with the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, 35th Mission Support Group, 35th Fighter Wing.

“The community has come together to cook us meals, and they’ve been treating us very well out here,” said Jewett. “This event gives (the community) a chance to contribute to the project and leave their mark.”

The group of international military engineers who completed the majority of the structure welcomed the chance to have local Thais and the children who will be using the building assist with painting the interior and exterior, according to Lance Cpl. David Willey, a combat engineer with Engineer Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“This event is so they can see the work we have done and participate,” said Willey. “When they come here and see (the progress) and get involved with us, it’s like a whole family coming together to do one solid project.”

While they are confident the structure will last for years to come, the service members are more proud of the legacy they will leave with the students and their families, according to Willey.

“It’s not just the school that’s going to be left, but also the relationships we have forged here,” said Willey. “Honestly, I think that’s one of the most important parts. The students will remember when (we) came and did all this and they were able to help out.”

The children appreciate the work put in by the different service members and were happy to help, according to Wattana Tienwijit, a student at the school.

“We will make sure to use (the school) every day,” said Tienwijit. “We will look after it and take care of it.”