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RED HORSE Airmen lend helping hands to Philippine community

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron helped complete a humanitarian assistance project July 30 in the Philippines in support of the State Partnership Program.

Eight members from Andersen Air Force Base, along with members from the Hawaii Army National Guard, Guam Army National Guard and Philippine armed forces came together for the project which lasted from June 1 to July 30. They worked together to construct a 1,400 square-foot, two-classroom building at the San Remigio Central Elementary School in Cebu, Philippines.

After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the country in November 2013, there have been many humanitarian efforts by U.S. service members to help the community. Almost two years later, many U.S. service members returned to the country in support of the SPP. The program is managed by the National Guard Bureau and began in 1993; it has successfully built relationships with many nations around the world through emergency management, disaster response and peacekeeping operations.

"When the opportunity to take part in this mission came up, nearly the entire squadron volunteered to come and be part of the team," said 1st Lt. Christopher Post, a 554th RED HORESE Squadron project engineer. "To have the unique opportunity to give back to a community that has been devastated by natural disasters is one of the multitude of reasons many of us have volunteered to be part of the U.S. Air Force."

This year the 254th RED HORSE Squadron and the Guam ANG teamed up with 554th RED HORSE Squadron to aid in the planning of the construction and ensure it was completed on schedule.

San Remigio Central Elementary School was one of the many schools in the area with severe structural damage. However, the school was not adopted by governmental organizations to assist in repairing the damages. School officials have been struggling with dilapidated classrooms and an increasing number of students, with no time or funding to complete the significant repairs. In February, U.S. service members and the Philippine armed forces joined together for a survey of the area to start plans for much needed relief for the school, faculty and students involved.

The joint team was involved in many tasks such as building forms, placing concrete, placing roof trusses by hand, and installing insulation and lighting. Additionally, Airmen repaired damages to other school buildings and installed volleyball nets for the children.

"We were so blessed to have the service members who painstakingly labored for our benefits. We thank God for making them as instruments to make this school a better place to study," said Wilfredo O. Besabella, the San Remigio Central Elementary School principal. "Not only did they build a building, but they also touched the hearts of these people through their generosity of giving school materials and food, of which the expenses were taken from their own pockets."

Not only did the team complete the mission at hand, but the different units gained valuable experiences and skills from the project.

This created the ability to forge enduring relationships among the particular individuals through the frequent team-building activities, said Philippine Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Revante, the 53rd Engineer Brigade commanding officer. Working together also allowed participants to develop cultural knowledge and language skills.

In addition to providing relief for the local community of Cebu, U.S. service members successfully strengthened ties with members of the Philippine armed forces.

"The additional opportunities to engage with the school children and members of the local community have shown us how important this is to those we support," Post said. "The success of the mission depended upon everyone's teamwork and dedication, and the school house will stand as a symbol of the bonds we built for years to come."

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