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Pacific Unity: Breaking down barriers by raising walls

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

Eight delegates from the Philippine air force and Royal Thai air force came to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to work with Airmen from the 554th RED HORSE Squadron for Pacific Unity 16-1, a subject-matter expert exchange.

Pacific Unity engagements facilitate military partnerships, boost building capabilities and increase interoperability among the U.S. Air Force and participating nations from the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

During the first week, the delegates along with 554th RHS engineers visited several tilt-up construction sites at the Pacific Regional Training Center at Anderson. The engineers discussed the concrete construction techniques used to address structural failures due to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and typhoons.

As the participants shared knowledge of their engineering experiences and capabilities, they built the foundation of how tilt-up construction methods could be implemented in building a variety of structures in their countries.

Concrete panels used in tilt-up are made horizontally in a specially treated cast that doesn’t bond with the mixture. Builders then take the cured concrete out of the mold and lift it into position using a heavy crane and braces. Once all the panels are in place they are connected and fitted with a roof. This shortened process allows for structures to be completed faster than traditional brick and mortar buildings.

“The great thing about engineering is that there are multiple answers to every question. If you ask an engineer a question, they’ll always answer ‘Well, it depends on the situation,’” said Capt. Naseem Ghandour, 554th RHS civil engineer. “Bringing in our partner nations from the pacific area brings in another set of eyes to look at the problems we all have in common.”

Throughout the first week, the participants discussed their militaries’ capabilities and techniques in planning, safety, equipment and execution of construction. The delegates also began the design process of a project they later assisted in building alongside 554th RHS Airmen.

“The sharing of knowledge promotes good relationships, because it allows us to work together among allied nations,” said Philippine air force Major Melquiades Sumog-oy Jr., Air Force Chief of Engineers Office chief of plans and program brands. “At the same time, it promotes interoperability in terms of doctrine, equipment and skills in conducting engineering-related projects.”

While tilt-up construction is a relatively new building method to both Philippine and Royal Thai airmen, engineers of the 554th RHS have been using the tilt-up method in the development of Andersen AFB’s Northwest Field for approximately eight years. This workshop allowed participants to find common ground and build a foundation for future missions.

Common skills and practices can be put to good use during operations such as Exercise Cobra Gold, an annual Thai-U.S. co-sponsored joint and multinational exercise, said Master Sgt. Joseph Towne, Pacific Air Forces civil engineer theater security cooperation manager.

“If we have a chance in the future, maybe we will make a school together using tilt-up with the U.S. Air Force in Exercise Cobra Gold 2017,” said Royal Thai air force Wing Commander Krisanapong Sukhasvasti, chief of construction management. “It would be good practice for my airmen to do and see the real thing.”

Increased interoperability among the participants has the potential to also increase teamwork during contingency operations. Understanding what capabilities partner nations can offer in times of need can expedite assistance when time matters.

“The tilt-up workshop allows us to take the knowledge that the 554th RHS has accumulated over the years, not just learning to work with tilt-up but actually doing it and proving that it’s successful, and pass that along to our partners in the Royal Thai air force and the Philippine air force, so that they can use the skills gained in the Philippines and Thailand,” Ghandour said. “Hopefully we can go there in the future and help them with their efforts as well.”

The two-week event concluded with the delegates and engineers from the 554th RHS building a concrete tilt-up wall, lifting three panels into place and a graduation ceremony May 20.