03/22/2013 -- DUMAGUETE, Philippines – One can have no better friend and no worse enemy than a United States Marine. For many in Dumaguete, Philippines, they understand the benefits of such a friendship, thanks to the efforts of the service members who participated in Pacific Angel 2013, an annual joint humanitarian assistance mission.
Pacific Angel had two main efforts: medical and engineering. While medical professionals helped heal Filipino civilians, military engineers repaired and renovated three schools.
The medical portion of the operation was held in a Dumaguete stadium. Doctors with the Army, Navy, and Air Force treated more than 1,000 patients.
Engineers with the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Filipino Army worked together and shared their knowledge of construction projects. This team included two engineers from 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.
“We went out to three different job sites,” said Cpl. Cameron T. Grant, a combat engineer with Bravo Company, 7th ESB, 1st MLG. “Each had a number of different branches in it. We had a good opportunity to not just learn about the militaries of other countries but the other services as well.”
The schools repaired were in dire need of renovation. They had no walls, electricity or windows, and the concrete fences around the campuses had dangerous rebar sticking out, according to the Marines.
“Before [the work began] there were no walls,” said Sgt. William L. Bain, a combat engineer with 7th ESB. “After, it had electricity, walls with fresh paint, fans and windows. It was a complete 180.”
“[The Filipinos] were very excited and thankful that we were there. The locals were very helpful,” said Grant, 22, from Denver. “[Pacific Angel] was pretty heartwarming. It wasn’t so much the work we were doing but the time we spent with the people is what made it such a great experience.”
The Marines used their experience as combat engineers to repair the dilapidated school. Because of their integration into the other services, it was both a chance for them to learn and to teach their methodology of engineering.
“Instead of going out and doing something for training purposes, I was actually out there using my expertise,” said Grant. “I was taking what I learned from the military and using it to help out a community.”
Each team of about 20 engineers took about 10 days working on a school. In that time, the locals treated the service members like family.
“It was a short amount of time, but the biggest thing for me was getting to know the people there,” said Bain, 27, from Portland, Ore. “You got a chance to talk to them and learn from them.”
For the two 7th ESB Marines on Pacific Angel, the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a truly rewarding experience.
“I loved it,” said Bain. “I wish I could do it again because it was so rewarding helping those little kids out. When we left, the kids were crying, because they didn’t want us to leave.”