25 Seabees in Samoa for Pacific Partnership
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 sent 25 Seabees to Savaii Island in Western Samoa to support Pacific Partnership 2013, the largest disaster response-preparation mission in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The exercise involves several countries and includes the U.S. military.
Marine engineers from the French Armed Forces of New Caledonia and the Seabees began working immediately to construct a fale, a Samoan-style building, at Tuasivi Hospital. They also renovated an unused building to be used as a library and computer lab at Asau Primary School.
Lt. j.g, Aaron Kotlarz, NMCB 5’s officer-in-charge for the detail, said locals would often show up and help with construction.
“Working as a joint team provided opportunities for U.S., French and Samoan personnel to exchange not only methods of construction, but more importantly, it was an opportunity for a cultural exchange on how to work together to complete a common task, even in the face of language barriers,” Kotlarz said.
Despite the challenges of getting materials and working in high temperatures, the Seabees and their counterparts completed the two main projects prior to the arrival of the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52).
After the ship arrived, the Seabees and French marine engineers were joined by New Zealand Army Engineers, U.S. Marines from the 7th Engineer Support Battalion (7th ESB) and more Seabees — these from Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 1.
The multinational construction team completed renovations at two additional primary schools and installed 10 water catchment systems at seven other schools, leaving subtle memorials of the hard work and commitment of the team of foreigners to Samoan people.
“I am so proud of all of that my Seabees have accomplished, the relationships they have fostered and the impact they have made on the people of Samoa,” said Kotlarz. “They were also able to see the immediate and personal impacts of the work they were performing.”
After finishing the projects in Samoa, the Seabees embarked on the Pearl Harbor to participate with the Pacific Partnership mission in Tonga.