Story by Utilitiesman 3rd Class (SCW/EXW) John P. Hurley, NMCB 11 CCAD Marshall Islands
Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 tutor students while on deployment to the Marshall Islands. (Photo by Utilitiesman 3rd Class (SCW/EXW) John P. Hurley, NMCB 11)
KWAJALEIN, Marshall Islands. – U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) Marshall Islands out of Gulfport, Mississippi, are on a six-month deployment to the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Throughout their deployment, the Seabees of CCAD Marshall Islands have been busy planning and estimating the final stages of a kindergarten project and will be breaking ground in the near future. The Seabees are also planning a project to install 625 linear feet of chain-link fence on the islet of Ejit on the capital atoll of Majuro, enclosing the island schoolyard to keep children safe.
The mission of the Seabees in the Marshall Islands is unlike a typical military deployment – in addition to public infrastructure construction projects, the CCAD Seabees are tasked with community outreach initiatives to demonstrate that U.S. government’s commitment to helping the Marshallese people. The CCAD’s outreach activities have included assisting local medical clinics, participating in youth mentorship programs, beach clean-ups, sports days with local children, and general ambassadorship as U.S. military personnel.
Another important service provided by the CCAD is tutoring local men and women to prepare them for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). As part of the Compact of Free Association, Marshallese citizens are allowed to serve in the U.S. military; with youth unemployment around 63 percent, many young people see the military as a good opportunity to travel, earn money, and provide for their families. The Marshallese are proud of their contribution to the defense of their homeland and the United States. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Solomon T. Sam was killed in action in 2008 while participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), making him the first casualty from the Marshall Islands during the War on Terror, and an honored figure in this small island nation.
Steelworker 3rd Class Erica Jelowdar of San Dimas, California has been leading the tutoring program for NMCB 11, and has about 25 High School students from local schools attend the weekly sessions. She feels the experience has been mutually beneficial. “Teaching the kids throughout our time here has taught me a lot,” she said. “Not only do I get the experience of teaching, but I am also learning different things as they are teaching me about their culture and language.”
Some Seabees have gained new appreciation for the power of learning. “I enjoy the look on the kids’ faces as they learn new things,” said Builder 3rd Class Evelyn Christie. “What we may see as simple can be a new concept to them, and seeing the joy from the kids after learning something new is a humbling experience.”
Recently Petty Officer Jelowdar and Petty Officer Christie have started to incorporate games into their lesson plans to further engage the students. They have used jeopardy to teach math and word composition concepts, which has also taught valuable teamwork skills. Marcella Sakaio, Principal of Ebeye Public School, has been impressed with the benefits of these methods, “Challenging the students in this tutoring program helps them realize that they can come up with the correct answer on their own and need not rely on the teachers to give them the answer.”