Pacific Partnership Team Rebuilds School in Papua New Guinea
LAE, Papua New Guinea (May 25, 2011) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Cyril England paints a schoolhouse with Papua New Guinean students at the Muya engineering civic action project during the Papua New Guinea phase of Pacific Partnership 2011. Pacific Partnership is a five-month humanitarian assistance initiative that will make port visits to Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tony Tolley)
Pacific Partnership Team Rebuilds School in Papua New Guinea
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Grandin, Pacific Partnership 2011 Public Affairs
BUBIA, Papua New Guinea (NNS) — Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 (ACB-1) completed the final additions to the Bubia primary school in Papua New Guinea May 25, during Pacific Partnership 2011.

ACB-1 worked with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the Australian Defence Force providing engineering support to improve a local school, a water system, and strengthen relationships with local officials and citizens, key objectives of the Pacific Partnership 2011 mission.

“We are working with host nation and Australian soldiers building a school and water tower to provide a place to learn and water for the facility,” said Lt. Ajac Adams. “The water tower is complete, and now we’re just putting the finishing touches on the school.”

The team consisted of 40 people from ACB-1, a contingent of Australian Army Sappers, and a team of Papua New Guinean engineers.  It took the multi-national team 23 days to complete construction of a new schoolhouse and a water tower, providing a new place for students to learn and fresh water for them to drink.  The new building will support at least two seventh grade classes of roughly 30 students per class.

“We have a detachment that has been here in Lae for several weeks as well as a small detachment embarked aboard Cleveland.  Together, we were able to get these projects done quickly and efficiently,” said Capt. Scott Lester, commanding officer of Amphibious Construction Battalion 1.

The Pacific Partnership team overcame several obstacles, including missing parts to a pre-engineered building, which provided some challenges to meeting their deadline.
“We fabricated parts to complete the project in a short amount of time.” Said Steelworker 1st Class Joseph Axiotis. “It’s Seabee ingenuity. It’s what we do. We find solutions to problem that come our way.”

Local Papua New Guineans lined up to help with the project, allowing the builders to learn about the community and teach local forces a little bit of what they know.  The parents and children that will be using the school seemed especially grateful.

“You can see, driving around, that the people enjoy our presence. It is great to go somewhere where you are appreciated for what you are doing.” said Lester. “The team is exchanging construction skills and working together with the local people, and it’s nice to see all of us doing something positive, learning from each other, and working hard at it.”

The Pacific Partnership mission itself provides a different working environment for ACB-1. Instead of building facilities in a war environment, they are building schools during a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission.

“Given our mission at ACB-1, which is primarily ship to shore logistics, we don’t often have the opportunity to do this type of construction,” Lester said. “This is an opportunity for the Seabee sailors hone their construction skills so when they go back to a mobile battalion or another unit, they can teach their shipmates new skills. Troops absolutely love it and I hope to do more of it.”

Pacific Partnership is on a humanitarian assistance initiative aimed to build relationships, enhance interoperability and improve quality of life. During the past five years, it has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 220,500 people and completed more than 160 engineering projects in 16 countries.

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