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Wash. Guard builds school, teach kids during Cobra Gold 2019

By Joseph Siemandel | Washington National Guard | Feb. 27, 2019

THAILAND - What had been in the pipeline for more than a decade took just days for the Washington National Guard to build.

“Not only did the Soldiers build a school, but they also got to teach English to the Thai children who went to the school where the new building was,” said Capt. Christia Draggie, commander, 176th Engineer Company. “I believe this school has been on the waiting list for more than ten years.”

Draggie led the Soldiers from the 176th on a recent 11-day mission to Thailand to take part in Exercise Cobra Gold, an annual joint and multinational exercise. The exercise brings the U.S. and several other countries to Thailand to conduct joint training and complete Engineer Civic Assistance Projects in a province that needs it most.

“We sent 39 soldiers to the Koa Aye Duan School in the Tak Province to build a school,” said Draggie. “We worked alongside the Royal Thai Army and Singapore Army to construct a three-room school building.”

The 25 x 65-foot structure, built from concrete, provides a clean, safe and powered building for students in the province to learn.

Soldiers who completed the project constructed a needed facility, as well as new relationships.

“Not only did I get to work with my battle buddies from my unit, but also the Thai and Singapore soldiers,” Spc. Russ Subiel, carpentry, and masonry specialist with the 176th Engineer Company said. “We helped in building and strengthening the bonds between the U.S., Thailand, and Singapore.

Subiel, an electrician’s apprentice for Meridian Center Electric, said he enjoyed the experience in Thailand.

“I have served on state active duty during two wildfire seasons, but this was my first time in Thailand, and I would gladly do it again,” Subiel said. Subiel and his unit have been so busy with other missions; this is their first time back to Thailand in a few years. After providing critical support to the search and recovery efforts following the devastating State Route 530 Landslide in Oso, Wash. in March 2014, more than 150 members from the company deployed to Kuwait in support of on-going missions in the Middle East. These same Guard members returned home in 2017, to immediately begin training for potential call-ups to support the state’s wildfire fighting efforts.

They also deployed to the Sheep Creek fire in August 2018, fighting the massive wildfire in the northeast corner of the state for more than two weeks.

“This is the unit’s first mission back in Thailand since their return from deployment in 2017, our last trip here was 2015,” Draggie said.