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Commando Engineers build school for Filipino youngsters as goodwill deployment concludes

25 August 2022
There’s a new school on an island in the Philippines thanks to the efforts of British commando engineers.

An ‘engineering strike team’ from 59 Commando Squadron, 24 Commando Royal Engineers were part of the UK’s commitment to Pacific Partnership 22.

The US-led peace/goodwill mission has just concluded after two months of providing healthcare and welfare assistance to remote/developing communities in the Western Pacific, as well as supporting humanitarian and community projects.

As well as a deputy commander from the Royal Navy (Captain Charles Maynard) and a medical officer Lieutenant Lesley Hailey on the flagship, hospital ship USNS Mercy, the UK assigned HMS Tamar and the commando engineers to the operation as part of Britain’s ‘tilt’ towards the Pacific.

The commando engineers joined their US Navy counterparts, the legendary Seabees, in helping to build a school classroom in the Aborlan region of Palawan – a single storey, two-roomed building which will open its doors to youngsters in October.

The Brits – part of an army unit which operates under 3 Commando Brigade and normally fulfils the engineering requirements of Royal Marines on the battlefield – worked on the foundations up to erecting load-bearing pillars and block walls.

“The engineering tasks were immensely rewarding and educational,” said Lance Corporal ‘Bomber’ Brown.

“The limited availability of plant and equipment placed a heavy burden. Combined with an average temperature of 30 degrees it made for arduous working conditions.

“But this only served to foster a greater sense of achievement – especially in the knowledge that we were giving back to the local community.”

Perhaps the most rewarding was the ocean bed clean up – teams competed to gather as much rubbish from the seabed as possible, with the help of Filipino scuba divers.

Sapper Joshua Sparrowhawk

The engineers – who wear the coveted Green Beret having completed the All Arms Commando Course – joined in various community events including sports days and games across Palawan, which is over 250 miles long, 25 miles wide and home to nearly one million people.

“Perhaps the most rewarding was the ocean bed clean up – teams competed to gather as much rubbish from the seabed as possible, with the help of Filipino scuba divers,” said Sapper Joshua Sparrowhawk.

The engineers let their hair down at an evening of Filipino culture - a traditional lechon (roast pig) dinner complete with locals performing a folk dance known as ‘tinikling’.

Lance Corporal Robert Lawson enjoyed the whole experience – from working with the Seabees and Filipino troops (“all of whom were a fantastic bunch of people and beyond welcoming”) to learning new construction techniques which may assist humanitarian work in the future and gaining an insight into a culture very different from day-to-day life at 59 Squadron’s home in Chivenor, North Devon.

“This is without a doubt a deployment that will endure in my memory as a career highlight, both for the opportunities it provided me as well as for the people I spent it with,” he added.

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