Seabees Touching Lives, Helping Residents in Marshall Islands

By CECN Sarah Coker, NMCB 133

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As Marshallese children watch and learn, Builder Second Class Brandon Kinsey chisels out a hinge mortise for a new door during the renovation of the Majuro Deaf Education Center, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands.(U.S. Navy photo/160608-N-ZZ999-002)

A seven-person Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) team of Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 recently completed a successful mission to Majuro and Arno Atolls, 260 miles from their base of operations in Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, July 6.

The efforts helped reaffirm U.S. commitment to the region. The entire Marshall Islands CCAD has been on the go constantly, traveling between six different islands to provide humanitarian assistance to the Marshallese people, and this team spent two weeks enhancing the survivability, safety, and security of the local infrastructure on the two islands.

“Everybody showed a can-do spirit in completing each task. We put in a great effort and truly made an impact on their quality of life,” said Steelworker Third Class Melissa Osipchack. “Giving back to those who are less fortunate is something the whole team is proud of.”

The first objective of the mission was to construct chicken coops for individual homes on Arno Atoll, which is approximately 5 square miles in size, with a population of no more than 300 residents. Resources are scarce and there is no running water or electricity. Residents use rain catchment tanks to collect water and portable gas generators for power. The new chicken coops will provide a means for local households to raise chickens as a source of food.

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Utilitiesman Third Class Kyle Carriere secures the roof of a chicken coop during a recently completed mission to the Arno Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (U.S. Navy photo/160528-N-ZZ999-003)

The project helps sustain a lasting U.S.-Marshall Islands partnership. It was a U.S. Embassy-supported effort, as it contributed to the Marshallese Senate’s food sustainment initiative. In addition, the construction skills Seabees passed down to local residents will help them become more self-sufficient.

“The Arno island project was simple but effective,” noted Chief Builder Nicholas Hoffmann. “It was no doubt a huge return on investment. The small amount of time we spent on the island reaped a lasting impact.”

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CCAD Marshall Island Seabees assemble PVC plumbing for the watering system in the Arno Atoll chicken coops. (U.S. Navy photo/160528-N-ZZ999-004)

The second objective of the mission was to provide renovations to the Majuro Deaf Education Center and make the school safer, more secure, and more comfortable. The school cares for around 30 hearing-disabled children every semester. However, due to limited funding and maintenance capacity, the schoolhouse has deteriorated over the years. Several doors and windows were broken, and merely covered up with plywood. The roof vents were not properly sealed and leaked water during rainstorms. Upon regrouping in Majuro after the Arno chicken coop project, the CCAD team devoted the next nine days to making improvements to the education center.

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Construction Electrician Constructionman Sarah Coker cuts steel pipes into required lengths in order to fabricate handrails for the renovation of the Majuro Deaf Education Center, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands. (U.S. Navy photo/160527-N-ZZ999-001)

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Steelworker Third Class Melissa Osipchak installs rebar reinforcement in preparation for a concrete pour during the renovation of the Majuro Deaf Education Center, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands. (U.S. Navy photo/160606-N-ZZ999-003)

With only some cash for materials and a handful of tools, the Seabees went to work: first, seeking out vendors and networking with local hardware stores for equipment, and then developing practical solutions for repairs. The team fabricated and installed 30-feet of safety handrails for the handicap ramp, installed two locking exterior doors at formerly sealed entrances to improve access, and installed two new windows to keep the elements out of the classrooms. They also repaired the school’s leaking roof vents to keep the classrooms dry during rainstorms.

CCAD Marshall Islands left a lasting footprint in many new and remote locations in the Marshall Islands, including Majuro and Arno. The team established positive, grass-root relationships with the people there. Representatives from the Majuro Atoll local government said they are looking forward to hosting the Seabees again in the near future. They hope to partner with the Seabees to tackle bigger construction projects.

 

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Builder Second Class Brandon Kinsey (left) and Chief Builder Nicholas Hoffmann carefully install a new window at the Majuro Deaf Education Center. (U.S. Navy photo/ 160605-N-ZZ999-002)

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