The joint military exercise in this city has built, not just classrooms, but stronger ties between the Philippines and the United States.

The US Armed Forces and Philippine Army concluded the Balikatan Exercise 2017 with the turnover of school buildings in two sites here Thursday afternoon.

The troops built a two-classroom school building at Don Carlos Rivilla Elementary School in an upland Boroc village, more than five kilometers away from the city’s commercial district. Another building was also completed in the campus of Margen Elementary School in Margen village, another upland village.

At least 25 US troops with the help of 52 personnel of the 543rd Army Engineering Construction Battalion and Army Reservist Corps worked together to complete the project in less than a month.

“One of the tenets for success in adulthood is education. Children with a safe, quality learning environment are more likely to retain information, enjoy their schooling and attend college,” said Brig. Gen. John Jansen, commander of 3rd Expeditionary Brigade of the US Armed Forces during the turnover.

Jansen also lauded the professionalism and expertise of their counterpart from the Philippines as they go on in the exercise resulting for having better relationship between military forces of the two countries.

“They came here as a unified force and also build friendship that will last for a lifetime,” he added.

He added that the Balikatan also allows members of the military forces to grow, share, and progress.

Sgt. Peter Reft of the US Air Force said that the Balikatan was an excellent opportunity to showcase how the Filipinos and Americans worked together, building friendships along the way which he had captured and wrote a story about.

“Seeing everybody work together, shoulder-to-shoulder really puts in my perspective on how both countries can benefit from one another in both learning and teaching experience,” he said.

Don Carlos Rivilla Elementary School Principal Joven Tomada, receiving the classroom during the turn-over ceremony said that Balikatan solved the classroom shortage problem.

The campus has only 10 classrooms for 12 teachers and 416 students from Kindergarten to Grade 6.

“The ratio now of classroom per teacher is one is to one. The children will now have better learning space and will have place for conducive learning,” Tomanda said.

Margen Elementary School Principal Elvira de Leon also thanked the two forces as new rooms reduced the burden of the teachers to make learning more comfortable to children.

“The completion of project is timely for the opening of class on June 5,” de Leon said.

Mayor Richard Gomez witnessed the turn-over of classrooms. He recalled the long discussion made to ensure that the humanitarian military exercise would be pushed through in this city.

“It is always nice to see, people in the community working hand-in-hand, especially with the armed force, the product is always fantastic,” Gomez said. “With the classroom that you built, this will truly help our education system.”

Around 2,600 members of the US Armed Forces and 2,800 Filipino soldiers participated in the annual Balikatan Exercise focused on humanitarian works in selected areas in Luzon and Visayas.(RTA/SS/PNA)
Photo Credit: facebook.com/exercisebalikatan