Seabees Partner with Tongan Marines to Rebuild School

By MC2 Tim D. Godbee

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(Left to right) A U.S. Navy Seabee, Royal Tongan Marines and a French army marine engineer construct a wall for a new classroom at the Lapaha Primary School during Pacific Partnership 2013 in June, Lapaha, Tonga. Photo by MC1 Class Lowell Whitman

Navy Seabees, Marine Corps engineers, French Army engineers, and New Zealand Army engineers, in conjunction with Royal Tongan Marine engineers, started rebuilding the Atele Primary School as a part of a Pacific Partnership 2013 engineering project June 17.

The project is scheduled to take two weeks to compete. The rebuild consists of replacing two collapsed roofs, improving the schools existing electrical infrastructure, installing two water tanks, remodeling the school’s interior and repainting the school’s exterior.

“We’re about 75 percent done with the project,” said site supervisor BU2 John Llewellyn. “We normally have between 15 and 25 persons on site everyday, so we’re right where we’re supposed to be in meeting our deadline.”

Led by Royal Tongan Marine engineers, the project is a collaboration of military engineers from four different nations to improve Tonga’s infrastructure, give the Atele community a place for their children to learn and serve as a disaster relief facility in the event of an emergency.

“It’s good working with everyone, and despite the occasional language barrier, once you get the message through then everything works itself out,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Noddings, engineer, New Zealand Army. “It’s good knowing that you’re helping out the people and giving them more classrooms and better facilities.”

Llewellyn noted all of the engineers on site are more alike than different and construction is universal no matter what language is spoken.

“Right now everyone’s meshing well, everyone has an assigned task and we’re going to work,” said Llewellyn.

Working at the invitation of each host nation, Pacific Partnership is joined by partner nations that include Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand to strengthen disaster response preparedness around the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.


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