Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Starr
SILIN, Honduras – Sailors assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One (NMCB 1) and medical professionals from the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence participated in a community relations project (COMREL) at the República de Colombia Elementary School in Silin, Honduras, August 1.
The Sailors provided entomology education to the students and made building improvements, including repairs to a faulty restroom, as part of the Southern Partnership Station 2017 (SPS 17) mission.
“This was the first COMREL of the mission and it was very successful and rewarding,” said Lt. Cmdr. Lee Rutledge, navy chaplain assigned to Commander, Naval Surface Squadron Fourteen. “It was great to see the enthusiasm of our Sailors and the joy on the children’s faces.”
During the project, NMCB 1 “Seabees” repaired the school’s restroom plumbing system by constructing new PVC piping, and replacing toilet assembly parts. The restroom’s plumbing had not worked properly for the past decade.
“I am really excited the Seabees are fixing our restroom,” said School Director Ivonne Dixiana Morazán. “We have brought many people throughout the years and they could not fix it. These pipes have not worked since 2005.”
The COMREL was the first for NMCB 1 Builder Constructionman Dever Kelly, since he joined the Navy, and he was excited to have the opportunity to enrich the lives of local children.
“It was meaningful for me to be here at this COMREL and to provide a service that can benefit these children,” said Kelly. “I have never laid pipe down before and I was able to do that. It was fun.”
78 students filled the classroom where Lt. Cmdr. Ian Sutherland, technical director for the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence, and his colleagues taught. During the class, Sutherland gave a presentation on entomology, showing the differences between harmless and dangerous insects, and what precautions the kids should take to stay healthy and prevent diseases.
“I had a blast in the class,” said Sutherland. “We had a game with the students, that if they answered a question right, they received a toy bug, which they were ecstatic about. And if they got it wrong, I had to do push-ups.”
The class later split up into groups for hands-on sessions with mosquito traps and microscopes, to observe live insect specimens. After the class, several students brought Sutherland the insects that they caught in cups.
“When the students brought me the bugs, it gave me satisfaction and it verified that they received the information that we gave them,” said Sutherland.
The project marked the first time U.S. Navy Sailors have visited this school. Staff members expressed their gratitude for the support the Sailors gave to them and the students.
“The class was very good, creative, and interesting,” said Morazán. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these students to see this kind of presentation, and the Sailors who provided it. We appreciated the Sailors coming out and helping out the school.”
SPS 17 Sailors are scheduled to participate in four additional COMRELS during the Honduras mission stop. Mission leaders are excited for the prospect of more COMREL opportunities in the future.
“We are trying to breathe life into these schools and we will continue to provide the services these children and schools need, regardless of the situation, from plumbing, painting or entomology training,” said Rutledge.
For more information, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/SPS/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/southernpartnershipstation.