By EA3 (SCW) Lawrence Romang, NMCB 74
SW3 Tyler Ault (left) and BUCN Corbin Carnahan, NMCB 74 Detail Niger, greet students at the local elementary school in Niamey, Niger. Operating forward, NMCB 74 strives to capitalize on engagement opportunities and build lasting relationships, ultimately paving the way for future partnerships. Photo by EA3 Lawrence Romang
Now midway through their six-month deployment, members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74, Detail Niger have been hard at work both in completing their construction tasking and in improving community relations between U.S. forces and the local population.
Providing general engineering support to Special Operations Command Africa, NMCB 74 has successfully installed a clamshell door on a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment (JSOAD) Large Area Maintenance Shelter (LAMS) hangar and continues to provide camp maintenance support for the base. The ‘Bees have also been volunteering, every Friday, at the local elementary school, getting the chance to interact with students.
On a typical Friday, as the trucks of Detail Niger approach, chants of “Cody! Cody! Cody!” can be heard coming from all corners of the schoolyard in Niamey, Niger. As the kids swarm the vehicles, it becomes apparent that it’s Builder 3rd Class Cody Ray the children are calling for.
“I’m sure it’s just because my name is easy to say,” laughs BU3 Ray. “It’s a lot of fun hanging out with the kids. They are eager to see us and run around and play with us.”
After the excitement from the arrival dies down and every child is greeted with “Bonjour!” [French for “Hello!”] and a handshake, the kids are divided into two groups. The first group is directed to change into soccer uniforms so a scrimmage game can begin. Members of Detail Niger gladly join in on the fun.
“Even though there is a huge language barrier, something like soccer can bring people together,” says Steelworker 3rd Class Tyler Ault. “It’s a good way to play with the kids without having to know French.”
The other group of students is led into the classroom where they participate in a variety of activities, depending on what the Detail Niger volunteer has decided to teach. Oftentimes, the activity is drawing and the volunteer will write on a chalkboard as the students try and replicate what they see.
“It’s always a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s hard getting through some of their shyness. One time, it looked like they got mad when I tried to draw on their paper with them, but as soon as I took out my own notebook, they all wanted to draw on my sheets,” said Chief Steelworker Donald Farwell. “It’s a lot of fun and I try to send out whoever wants to go every week.”
Seabees have also involved the schoolchildren with other activities such as cooking and sewing.
The Seabees are grateful for the opportunity to visit and play with the young students of Niamey, but found they wanted to do more. Noticing that the children’s desks were in disrepair, they decided to donate their time to fix them. From the first day, the students wanted to help. It turned into another great bonding experience as the Seabees taught the children some carpentry skills and, at the same time, share a little about what they do and why they are here.
Next on the list of tasking for the ‘Bees – and most certainly another opportunity to spend time with their young “apprentices” – soccer goals.