With the Army National Guard in Mongolia (Part 1)

CAMP FIVE HILLS, Mongolia -- So how far is it from Hawaii to Mongolia? Not too far, as it turns out, for the National Guard. The Army National Guard's 871st Engineering Battalion, based in Wailuku, Hawaii, recently visited this remote country to fix up and renovate the dormitory of a local school. The building had last been renovated in 1961.

The National Guard plumbers, electricians, masons and carpenters began overhauling the building's windows, doors, paint and flooring the project on Sept. 4, with a deadline for completion of Sept. 21.

Sgt. Chad Romero, a carpenter/mason originally from Kihei, Hawaii, said the project was going well and they were progressing quickly with the help of local Mongolians.

"Their tools are archaic by our standards, but they get the job done," Romero said. "They work with what little they have, but it works for them and we're really ahead of schedule."

The construction specialists concentrated on the second floor, since students still occupied the first. And despite the language barrier, the work was inherent to basic building construction, so the Mongolians and Americans worked together well. During break time, they learned each other's common phrases while the young students laughed and giggled as they mingled and passed by.

Romero recently returned from a tour in Iraq. He said the attitude towards the American team in Mongolia was different that much of what he saw in Iraq.

"The children threw rocks at us there and really acted like they didn't want us there helping them," he said. "Here, the Mongolian children want to interact, share trading of candy and play."

"The truly rewarding part of this project is that we are here being a part of their history and making a difference in their lives - and they appreciate it!" Romera said. "When you enjoy what you do for a job, you do it because you like to. But when someone appreciates it, the reward is even deeper."
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