The headlines here in the Philippines are full of the usual stuff: corruption, political charges, a celebrity’s wife who was shot, and of course our lovely president, Gloria Arroyo, traveling the world to get more jobs for our Overseas foreign workers.

But one small story on GMA NEWS caught my eye:

About 30 troops from the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team returned Wednesday (Thursday in the Philippines) from a six-month tour in Sulu province in the southern Philippines.

Hmmm…the joint US/Philippine Balikatan training program was a couple months ago. I usually know when they are here, because they come to learn Jungle warfare at a nearby base and we hear a lot of planes and helicopters flying around when they are there.

Usually the US troops go to rural barangays (villages) to hold clinics or help with construction. In return, they learn how to drink cobra blood and live in the jungle from our Philippine Special Forces.

Of course, we always hear rumors of special forces types from the US (or even Australia) are in the south assisting local soldiers against the AlQaeda linked terrorists, but they are not permitted by law to do any fighting.

So why were the Hawaiian National Guard in Sulu?

According to GMA, the Hawaiians were here on a six month stint “training the local Philippine military and supporting humanitarian civilian projects ” such as engineering, medical support and community outreach efforts in Sulu.

They are now headed home to Hawaii, and undoubtedly will be greeted by family and friends there; a story of ordinary people whose hard work and sacrifice rarely makes the headlines.

But that’s the way it is with the National Guard, the unsung citizen soldiers who are called up to help time after time with civilian disasters, or use their specialized skills throughout the world.

So salamat, guys, and aloha.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.
She was a member of the US National Guard in the 1980’s.

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