LOP BURI, Kingdom of Thailand --
Servicemembers working on the construction of a local school in Lop Buri province, Kingdom of Thailand gave new meaning to serving the local community.
A Sailor and several Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 based out of Okinawa, Japan, took an extra step during the Engineer Civil/Humanitarian Assistance Program (ENCAP) portion of Exercise Cobra Gold 2015 and taught an English class to local school children.
CG 15 is a combined forces exercise taking place across Thailand from Feb. 9-20 and is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective responses to crises in the area. This year’s focus is on humanitarian civic action, community engagement and medical activities to support the needs and humanitarian interests of civilian populations in the region. The multinational force operating in CG 15 consist of 25 nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.
In order to fulfill the needs of the Thai community and achieve those common goals, the Marines and Sailors of MWSS-171 are constructing a multipurpose, masonry building for the local school in the district of Khok Samrong, Lop Buri province, Kingdom of Thailand.
But the contribution doesn’t stop at the construction of the building. After several weeks of construction, the Servicemembers volunteered to teach daily English classes to the school’s students.
The classes include common words and basic greetings.
“We’ve taught them some colors and numbers,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Fuentes, a hospitalman with MWSS-171. “We also like to teach them things that they use every day, like ‘backpack’ and ‘pencil.’”
Fuentes said utilizing their English book helps him see what they’ve already learned and what their level of knowledge is, so he can teach them something they will remember easily.
“They are pretty good at it, they are actually picking up words very quickly,” said Fuentes. “A lot of things they already know, from what they’ve learned in school, but others were new to them.”
Lance Cpl. Jibreel Leitzsey, a combat engineer with MWSS-171, has been teaching the group of children basic greetings and courtesies.
“I taught them how to say ‘hello’ and what their name is,” said Leitzsey.
Leitzsey said he used conversational methods during his lesson by asking each kid in the room their age and having them respond accordingly.
“I also taught the basics of a conversation, greeting, how to tell their ages, what their favorite foods were,” said Leitzsey. “They did really well. Their teachers are obviously doing a very good job at teaching them English, because they actually knew a lot.”
Fuentes said that teaching kids from a different country how to speak English gives him a sense of pride, especially when he can see the results.
“I like helping people in general,” said Fuentes. “Having the chance to help these kids, not only by constructing a building for them, but by teaching them English has been really satisfying.”
Leitzsey also added that he enjoys teaching the classes.
“We’re here to construct the building for the school, the kids and the locals, and that makes me feel good,” said Leitzsey. “But being able to teach them and have that personal connection with the kids is a great feeling.”
The team is continuing to teach the lessons in addition to construction of the structure, which is scheduled to be completed by Feb. 19.
The building will be handed over officially to the local community through a dedication ceremony, which will take place after the structure has been completed.
For more information on exercise Cobra Gold, please visit the official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ExerciseCobraGold