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Goodwill Through the Language of Civil Engineering


By Staff Sgt. William Banton
Air Force Link

August 16, 2014 - BULGON, Mongolia (AFNS) -- Tech. Sgt. Brede Grorud and Mongolian armed forces Sgt. Erdenetsogt Bachuluun stand in the poorly lit gymnasium of Bulgon, a Mongolian primary school. Their task is to repair the building's electrical system together -- yet they are unable to speak the same language.

Grorud and Bachuluun are electricians participating in Pacific Angel 14-4, and have been working together for one week now.

"The first hour was challenging," Grorud said. "The language barrier can be tough especially when you start to speak long sentences."

Bachuluun agreed and added that the commonality of the job allowed the two the ability to help understand each other.

U.S. Air Force civil engineers communicated with Mongolian contractors and worked with Mongolian armed forces, or MAF, engineers to help improve the quality of life in local schools and clinics, said Senior Master Sgt. Sandon Miller, the lead civil engineer for PACANGEL 14-4 assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron.

"(Here,) the windows were broken and the heating systems didn't work, so we came in and repaired the windows and the heating system; it's a quality of life issue," Miller said. " The Air Force does this for about eight nations, which alternate every year. We go in and do anything we can to improve the quality of life for the local communities."

They also helped make aesthetic repairs, like adding new mirrors and door handles, changed out light fixtures, rebuilt balconies and made electrical system repairs.

"As civil engineers for the Air Force, our mission is to come over here to repair the facilities but more importantly to build friendships and work with the Mongolian engineers to learn their trade secrets, work practices, safety practices and to learn from each other while we repair the facilities," Miller said. "The friendships part is kind of a bonus."

In order to ensure all work was standardized to Mongolia's system, U.S. Air Force personnel allowed the MAF to take the lead on the humanitarian efforts.

"In America, our standards are a little different than here, so we didn't want to change things or put our standards upon the Mongolian system," Grorud said. "A lot of things are the same, but here, the voltage is different for lights than it is in America."

Bachuluun said it's really understandable America would have different standards than Mongolia.

These differences were easy to overcome, because both service members understood the rules for electronics and had training in universal principles, which helped them become friend.

"To me (Pacific Angel) is a blessing because it's a once in a lifetime thing," Grorud said. "I don't know if I'll ever make it back to Mongolia again. Also, having four kids, I know the impact a school can have on kid ... It's been a fantastic experience, I feel blessed to be here, and I made a new friend."

Operation PACANGEL Mongolia helps cultivate common bonds and fosters goodwill between the U.S., Mongolia and regional nations by humanitarian assistance and civil military operations.

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