Seabees and Multi-National Teams Partner in Tonga

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tim D. Godbee

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ATELE, Tonga — Royal Tongan Marine engineers with assistance from French Marine engineers, New Zealand Army engineers, U.S. Navy Seabees and Marine Corps engineers, in conjunction with 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 complete.  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 Builder 2nd Class John Llewellyn, the site supervisor and a U.S. Navy Seabee assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5.  “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, New Zealand army engineer.  “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.

The multi-national construction crew consisted of personnel from the Royal Tongan Marines, New Zealand Army Engineers, marine engineers from the French Armed Forces of New Caledonia, U.S. Marines 7th Engineer Support Battalion (7th ESB), and U.S. Navy Seabees from Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 1 and NMCB 5.

The crew also renovated and improved several other school facilities in Tonga.  The construction performed will be a lasting memory of the partnership and commitment the crews accomplished together.

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.

Pacific Partnership was born of the multinational response to the 2004 tsunami that struck Southeast Asia.  In its eighth iteration, the mission contributes to stability and security by opening dialogue between leaders, fostering relationships and building mutual trust and respect, while ensuring that the international community is better prepared to work together as a coordinated team when a regional disaster strikes.

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