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Marines begin joint effort in Bangladesh

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CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh — Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 arrived here Sept. 7 to conduct an engineering civil action project exercise with elements of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, in coordination with the Government of Bangladesh.

The Marines of Engineer Operations Company, MWSS-172, Marine Wing Support Group 17, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, will be helping to expand the second floor of a school. The construction at the school is part of the Bangladesh Interoperability Program 11, an exercise that demonstrates the history of cooperation between the U.S. and Bangladesh and the interoperability of the nations’ militaries.

Two weeks after Cyclone Marian struck the Chittagong district of southeastern Bangladesh April 19, 1991, the U.S. organized a contingency-joint task force, commanded by Marine Lt. Gen. Henry Stackpole, to spearhead humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts to the devastated areas. The operation was named Sea Angel.

In May, preparatory work on the school was completed as part of the 20th anniversary commemoration of Operation Sea Angel by Marines with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF, and MWSS-472, MWSG-47, 4th MAW, Marine Forces Reserve, based in Chicopee, Mass.

In the coming weeks, MWSS-172 Marines will be building the walls and ceiling, painting and running new electrical wiring through the school, said Sgt. Ross Fuller, a combat engineer with EOPS Co. and the ENCAP site foreman.

The Marines from EOPS Co. are skilled in all aspects of construction needed to accomplish this mission. EOPS Co. does face some challenges, but nothing they will not be able to overcome, Fuller said.

“We’ve never worked with the Bangladesh military, and there is definitely a difference in the way we both do things,” Fuller said. “There may be a little bit of a language barrier. There are also some Marines who haven’t done this kind of construction work. Getting everyone to work together will be a little tough, but once we get a flow going I am confident we will be able to finish the job well and on time.”

Sgt. Samuel Holthouser, another combat engineer with EOPS Co., will be shadowing Fuller during the ENCAP. Holthouser said he came from 9th ESB, so his experience with this kind of construction is fairly new.

“Being in Bangladesh and this as my first ENCAP should make things very interesting,” said Holthouser. “I’ll be learning how to do things with concrete and bricklaying and also learning the ropes of the foreman’s duties from Sgt. Fuller.”

Rain poses the most significant challenge, with the potential of halting work, said Fuller.

That just means the Marines will have to get as much done as possible on the nice days, he added.

“The Bangladeshi Army has been very welcoming and accommodating, and the Marines are excited to start the project,” said Fuller. “This is the first time these Marines have been to Bangladesh, and that makes the experience even more rewarding.”

The ENCAP is expected to be completed in early October.

Article by Sgt. Megan Angel, Marine Corps Bases Japan