T-Bolts take break to teach

18 Feb 2004 | Lance Cpl. C. Alex. Herron

Marines from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 took part in a culture exchange at a high school in Korat, Thailand, Feb. 18, which helped students improve their English skills.

The three maintenance Marines, along with Air Force and Singapore service members traveled to the Swathampitak School to assist the students with their English studies.

“We went to the school to give students a chance to use their English skills they might otherwise never use outside of school,” said Air Force 1st Sgt. Richard Coyle, Cope Tiger first sergeant. “We are there everyday to help the students study for their final exams in late February.”

The school of more than 2,400 students and 140 faculty teaches grades 7 through 12. As soon as the students start at the school, they begin English classes and continue throughout their high school years.

“Many of the younger students are shy at first, because they never use their English outside of the classroom,” said Mark Trachtendarg, English teacher, Swathampitak School. “After the Marines and airmen begin asking questions, it doesn’t take long for the students to open up and begin to use their skills.”

The Marines who took time out of their schedule to lend a hand also got something out of the experience.

“It feels good to have helped out,” said Cpl. Joshua Ryan, electric shop, VMFA-251. “I hope I helped them in studying for their exams.”

Some of the Marines left the school affected more by individual students rather than a particular class.

“There was one eighth grader who was surprisingly knowledgeable of the English language,” Ryan said. “She understood everything I said and was really into just sitting and talking to me.”

Besides the day at the high school, the Thunderbolts  shared their volunteer spirit throughout the squadron’s time in Thailand.

“We had Marines, along with airmen from Singapore, Thailand and the United States go to Bon Bungtakla Elementary School in Korat to drop off desks, chairs and DVD players that were provided by the Air Force,” said Cmdr. Donald Troast, group chaplain, Marine Aircraft Group 12. “The Marines played with the children and even served them lunch. Everyone, from the teachers to the students, were genuinely gracious and excited about us being there.”

With many different volunteer projects going on during Operation Cope Tiger, the Thunderbolts have more opportunities to showcase their ambassadorship in and around Korat.

“Volunteerism is an important part of what we are doing,” said Lt. Col. Thomas “T.C.” Clark, commanding officer, VMFA-251. “Obviously our primary mission is flying and training, but we are also ambassadors of the United States. The Marines like to get out among the locals, especially children. I’d like to see all of our Marines get an opportunity to get out and work in the surrounding community, because I have yet to see a Marine come back without a smile on their face and glad they helped out.”