My brother who did some time in Iraq as an engineer for the US Navy (long story) then shipped out aboard a vessel USS Peleliu – named for the my fave island
Peleliu, Palau – for the Philipines to tend to some humanitarian tasks for the people dealing with the strife caused by a recent typhoon.
Turns out, the goodly Lt. performed such noble service, the USN wrote a press release article extorted his efforts. The article twas found ‘in the wild’ by brother #4 who is bound to be the future mayor of some small town in Alberta.
The photos mentioned in the release were not attached (i’ll write the military attache for help) … but instead, here are a few photos Lt. Magnum snapped while in the islands plus one from my trip to Peleliu back around 1995 or so.
His tasks remind me of a great podcast episode on BicycleMark’s Citizen Reporter about the Rainbow Family helping out down in the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Katrina.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug 2, 2007 
Navy Engineer Makes a Difference
NAVFAC Far East Engineer Recounts Pacific Partnership Humanitarian Mission
YOKOSUKA, JAPAN – When Lt. Robert Olson volunteered to be an embedded engineer for the Pacific Partnership Humanitarian Mission in the Philippines he knew the area needed help, but he didn’t know the full extent of the difference he was going to make. He went as part of an advance team – his part, to plan projects for the Seabees. Olson, whose primary responsibility is as an engineer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Far East, Public Works Department, learned about the assignment while he was serving in Iraq. He returned to his home in Japan for two weeks and left for the assignment.
The areas where he worked in the Philippines had been hard hit by volcano and typhoon damage from eight months ago.Entire areas were buried.
“It was the kind of contribution I wanted to make from the very beginning,” he said. “Everywhere I looked, there was something needing to be done – they needed help!”
Olson identified the projects to be worked on immediately, such as a hospital in desperate need of repair, where most of the doors and windows were missing.The roof was damaged with ceilings handing down.
Olson said he learned a lot from retired Senior Chief Builder, Ed Guillermin, who worked with him from the onset. “Guillermin had a lot of experience,” Olson said, “especially with preparing the bill of materials.”
The next hurdle was getting the materials, but they had quality help there too.Olson explained that a retired marine named, Duane McDavid, working in Singapore was the contracting specialist.He said this man also made a difference.He was able to award contracts to vendors to deliver materials locally – getting the materials on site when they were needed while helping the local economy.
“Another plus was that the materials were to the local standards,” Olson said, explaining the importance of this issue as events unfolded.
He went to Manila to work out materials but acquired more than materials on his trip.
“I stopped in to the headquarters for the Philippine Seabees and met with their Rear Admiral and asked if he could spare five Seabees. He gave us fifteen! Additionally he put us in contact with the Philippine Army Corps of Engineers who provided us with an additional 25 enlisted and officer engineering personnel. So we went from having 20 Seabees to having a work crew of over 50!”
Olson put them to work, coordinating work efforts in several locations.
“It made things interesting,” he said.
One of the projects included a river clogged by debris. They started by clearing a section with the one bull dozer that the Seabees had.
“We started with that,” he explained. “When the Army saw that – they wanted part of the action too, so they brought their bull dozers and it turned into a real international cooperative effort.”
Olson discovered the value of charitable organizations saying there was a great spirit of volunteerism. They provided lunch time meals, coordinated equipment needs free of charge, and provided transportation for the Medcaps.
The medical portion of the mission was part of Olson’s job too, scouting for landing sites and making ready for on-land needs for the USS Peleliu – a ship carrying doctors, dentists and other specialized health care personnel.
The Pacific Partnership Humanitarian Mission resulted in 2844 pediatric patients and 4987 primary/acute care people being seen. Health care providers filled 21,112 prescriptions and specialists made 3683 eye glasses. A total of 14,133 patients were seen in all areas of patient care.
But that’s not all. . .a river now flows free.
Lt. Robert Olson snaps a photo while at the Headquarters of the Philippine Seabees.
Lt. Robert Olson photographs river project