AFP, local residents, and US soldiers come together, build more than walls

SALCEDO, Ilocos Sur – At the offskirts of a road in Barangay Atabay, several soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. Army are working together daily with the farmers to build a flood protection wall here.

The soldiers working at the site are helping to build a flood protection wall that residents here say will help control water from the river during the rainy season. Philippine and U.S. soldiers have been working hard since February 14 so that they can complete it by mid-March. The task is enormous as the AFP and U.S. teams are building many four-foot by four-foot cages each day to secure the wall. But the soldiers are not the only ones who work on the wall.

“The residents help out as they can,” said Spc. Albert Ericson, a carpentry and masonry specialist with 3rd Mobile Engineer Brigade, 6th Engineer Battalion, 56th Engineer Company, 1st Platoon, from Minong, Wisconsin.

Samson Ellazar, a volunteer and resident of Salcedo, appreciates the help they have received throughout the project.”Thank you to Balikatan in helping (with this work ) in our province,” Ellazar said.

The project is in support of Balikatan 2010, an annual combined joint bilateral exercise involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the U.S. military, and personnel and subject matter experts from Philippine Civil Defense agencies.

For the soldiers, the help they receive from the residents of Salcedo is beneficial to the overall mission accomplishment. It is also symbolic of the building of bonds. “Team work is nice,” said Spc. Carlos Perez Rodriguez, an interior electrician with 3rd Mobile Engineer Brigade, 6th Engineer Battalion, 56th Engineer Company, 1st Platoon, and Bayamon, Puerto Rico. “(We want the residents here) to know that we’re here to help and we enjoy helping other people. I hope we can bring the community together a little bit more.”

The soldiers expect their work will help the farmers and keep the flooding from ruining their crops. The farmers are taking an active part in this project as stakeholders in their land.

“I hope that the residents of Salcedo get an insight into what the Balikatan team can help out with and are willing to help out with,” Ericson said.

Although the project is still ongoing, an end state has already appeared as the residents of Salcedo have joined the Balikatan team and have built bonds as strong as any wall while improving their land.#