MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania - Arriving blurry-eyed and
nearly two days behind schedule, a team of over 30 U.S. Air Force
civil engineers promptly disembark a KC-135 Stratotanker here,
having traveled more than 13 hours nonstop from the Pacific
For three of the members, arriving in Romania is
the second part of their back-to-back expedition of providing
Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) in the form of construction
repairs and renovations to nations once considered foes, now global
As the sun begins to set, Senior Airman
Tyler O'Bryant collects his luggage and boards a transport bus for
Mangalia, Romania. Among the larger group, his two comrades, Senior
Airman Zack Lewis and Tech. Sgt. Ramon Lopez, congregate in the same
row of the bus as they all make the 45-minute trip to the job site.
Oregon Air National Guardsmen from the 142nd Fighter Wing Civil Engineer Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Ramon Lopez, left, Senior Airman Tyler O'Bryant, center, and Senior Airman Zachariah Lewis, right, pause for a group photograph along the Black Sea in the city of Mangalia, Romania, May 13, 2015, as part of the U.S. European Command's (EUCOM) Humanitarian Civic Assistance Program (HCA). The three Airmen on deployment in Romania also recently finished a deployment in Quang Ngai province, Vietnam, during Operation Pacific Angel, a joint and combined humanitarian assistance operation led by the U.S. Pacific Air Forces. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)
The three self-proclaimed “Charlie's Angels,” have been a
tight trio for the past several months after spending nearly
three weeks in Quang Ngai province of Vietnam renovating
schools and hospitals, as part of Operation Pacific Angel
15-3. They arrived in Romania with their fellow 142nd
Fighter Wing Civil Engineers to renovate a hospital clinic
as part of the unit's Deployment For Training (DFT)
Operation Pacific Angel is a United States
Pacific Air Forces humanitarian mission sponsored by United
States Pacific Command, which engages multiple nations in
the Pacific region each year.
This year, more than 45
U.S. military members deployed to Vietnam to partner with
local non-governmental organizations as well as host-nation
military forces. They provided various functions that
included health services and engineering civil outreach
Under the National Guard's State
Partnership Program, Vietnam and Bangladesh are partnered
with Oregon under the United States Pacific Command.
Romania, under the United States European Command State
Partnership Program, is partnered with the state of Alabama,
whose Airmen began the renovations of Pavilion C in
Mangalia. It was up to the team from Oregon to complete the
“A big part of the reason we click so well
together is that we bring three unique skill sets to any
assignment,” said O'Bryant. “We can walk into any project
and start to recognize right away what needs to be done.
Zack [Lewis] sees the walls and foundation, Lopez goes for
the electrical work and I do the plumbing.”
their trip to Romania, when the three arrived in Quang Ngai,
they began to tackle the most pressing needs first, taking
stock in their civil engineer training.
need to make upgrades was imminently apparent to O'Bryant as
he recalled the community sanitation issues in Vietnam first
“There were people bathing in puddles and also
going to the restroom in the same places,” O'Bryant said.
Amenities most people take for granted, such as
having a clean place to wash hands or designated
gender-specific bathrooms, stood out to the team. Repairing
the existing bathrooms included upgrades to the sinks,
showers and urinals.
“The plumbing was pretty much
nonexistent. There was a hole in the ground functioning as a
toilet,” he said. “When we got the water sources up, people
were actually standing in line to use the restroom just to
wash their hands.”
As important as the water and
sanitation improvements were, the upgrades made at the local
schools garnered a great deal of consideration as well.
As a carpenter, Lewis spent a majority of his time
rebuilding structural deficiencies.
“Right away we
talked about items that would help make a big impact,” he
said. “The need for book shelves created storage and made
the rooms more functional.”
Not to be outdone by his
amigos, Lopez found plenty of work installing fluorescent
lighting while laying electrical wiring in the process.
“This was my second trip to Vietnam in the past several
years, and on both trips the work involved upgrading schools
and medical clinics,” Lopez said.
lighting systems and installing new fixtures, the residents
of Quang Ngai benefited from the work, which increased local
access to medical care. Lopez worked in a different capacity
in Romania, where he helped rebuild a cancer clinic for the
citizens of Mangalia.
“The cross training experience
is a big part of these trips,” said Lopez. “In Vietnam I
worked in my career field, but here in Romania, I've been
laying tile, painting, and whatever needs to happen to get
the project done.”
O'Bryant summarized the two trips
saying that, “It is an amazing feeling; knowing that we
provide these basic necessities that we [in the United
States] take for granted, others see as it as a luxury.”
As O'Bryant, Lewis and Lopez have crisscrossed the globe
over the past several months their friendship has deepened
while they have made positive impacts for strangers.
“We could have called ourselves the Three Musketeers but
Charlie's Angels seems to fit our persona,” O'Bryant
recollected with a laugh. “During all of this work, the
three of us have become good friends.”
By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
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