Building friendships in the Philippines

Royal Australian Air Force tradespeople have worked together with their counterparts from the Philippine Air Force and United States Air Force to build a new classroom during Exercise Balikatan in the Philippines.

CAPTIONRAAF carpenter Leading Aircraftman Matthew Kunde and a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines plan the fitting of plaster to the roof of a newly constructed classroom at St Augustine School, San Fernando, during Exercise Balikatan in the Philippines. Story by Sergeant David Said. Photos by Corporal Sam Price.

Constructed from the ground up, the building will include a library and counselling centre, which will allow students of St Augustine Elementary School in the regional city of San Fernando to study in a modern and comfortable facility.

The team of eight from 65 Air Base Recovery Squadron included carpenters, plumbers, electricians and plant operators based at RAAF Bases Townsville in Queensland and Richmond in NSW.

Although the Philippines is a long way from his hometown of Woodford in Queensland, carpenter Leading Aircraftman Matthew Kunde said the task was a great opportunity to integrate with fellow engineers from the Philippines and United States in an unfamiliar environment.

“Everyone has the same attitude and is working well together to get the task done … it’s been seamless,” Leading Aircraftman Kunde said.

“In the future, if we all have to come together in an emergency, we’re going to mesh very well.”

CAPTIONLeading Aircraftman Julian Bishop builds a cement guide at St Augustine School during Exercise Balikatan.

Facing hot conditions and working without the benefit of heavy machinery, the three nations all worked long hours to ensure they kept the project on schedule.

Leading Aircraftman Kunde said the challenging circumstances had not affected the morale of the teams.

“We’ve been trading stories and food as well as sharing skills and techniques,” he said.

“We’ve been taking care of them and they’ve been taking care of us.”

The construction is one of four engineering civic action program projects taking place during the exercise. The program aims to improve the quality of life of residents in exercise areas.

Leading Aircraftman Kunde said he was proud to be involved in a project that will help children from the local area.

“Our building work is going to provide something not only for children now, but maybe even their children,” he said.

“Our aim is that it will stand up long into the future and provide for children and the community for years to come.”

CAPTIONRAAF carpenters, Leading Aircraftman Nathan Brannigan and Leading Aircraftman Matthew Kunde, and a member of the Armed Forces of the Phillipines, lift plasterboard to be fitted to a newly constructed classroom at St Augustine School.


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