By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tim D. Godbee
ATELE, Tonga –Royal Tongan Marine engineers are rebuilding the Atele Primary School with the assistance of Pacific Partnership French Army engineers, New Zealand Army engineers, U.S. Navy Seabees and U.S. Marine Corps engineers, as a part of a Pacific Partnership 2013 engineering project, June 17.
The rebuild is scheduled to consist 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.
U.S. Navy Seabee, Builder 2nd Class John Llewellyn, one of the site supervisors said the project is scheduled to take two weeks to compete. “We’re about 75 percent done with the project. 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 to working with everyone and despite the occasional language barrier, once you get the message through then everything works itself out,” said New Zealand Army Lance Cpl. Michael Noddings, an engineer on site in Atele. “It’s good knowing that you’re helping out the people and giving them more classrooms and better facilities.”
Llewellyn said that 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,” added Llewellyn.
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.
U.S. Air Force Captain Kelvin Bush has been serving for four years as an internal medicine physician. Stationed in Yokota, Japan, Captain Bush is on board the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) for Pacific Partnership 2013. This week, he’ll be in charge of a health fair in Tonga.
Pacific Partnership: How did you feel when you heard you were selected to be a part of Pacific Partnership 2013?
Capt. Bush: When I found out about the itinerary I was really excited…definitely blessed to have been chosen for an opportunity like this. From what I heard about it before coming on, this is like a deployment of a lifetime.
Pacific Partnership: We hear you’re taking part in a health fair this week. What will your role be?
Capt. Bush: I’m going to be the officer in charge of the health fair on June 17th. Our objectives are to do a lot of education and training regarding several different topics including tobacco cessation, hypertension, dental hygiene and many other non-communicable disease trainings.
Pacific Partnership: How much diversity is present on the Pacific Partnership team and how does that benefit the people of Tonga?
Capt. Bush: It’s a personal growing experience for me to be able to work with the Navy, the Army, Australian military, civilians and others. I’m looking forward to the diversity of my team in Tonga. In Samoa, it was an awesome, amazing experience. I think it really made an even bigger impact on the community by bringing a diverse team.
Pacific Partnership: You are an internal medicine physician. How does your work tie in to the overall goal of disaster response preparedness?
Capt. Bush: Just our experience dealing with things in a different environment, makes us stronger in being able to deal with them in more austere environments. Prevention is the key to better health.
Pacific Partnership: What are you looking forward to most while we are in Tonga?
Capt. Bush: Mostly the people and learning about the culture. I’m interested in how they do things differently, how they interact, their energy. Hopefully they have some nice beaches, too.
Holly Ramirez is one of only two active duty female divers in the U.S. Navy. She’ll hit her 11-year mark with the Navy this fall and is currently stationed at Underwater Construction Team 2 in Port Hueneme, California. Holly, along with other construction team members (Seabees), is aboard USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) for Pacific Partnership 2013.
Pacific Partnership: How did you become interested in the diving community?
Holly: We were down in Honduras and I was doing camp maintenance as a Seabee, building tents. I saw these people walking around in flip-flops and shorts, going on and off base and I thought, I want to do that job. Someone said, “Oh, that’s the divers.” So, I went over to talk to them.
Pacific Partnership: Where is the most interesting place you’ve ever dived? Are you excited about any specific island during this mission?
Holly: We were out in the middle of the Bahamas doing a submarine mooring system off the shelf. That was one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever done in my life, but I’ve never been in the Pacific. I’ve never seen any of these islands or people, so I think that’s the most exciting thing. It’s a totally different world.
Pacific Partnership: What types of projects will the divers be working on during this mission?
Holly: We’ll be doing pier inspections, hydrographic surveys, and bathymetric surveys. The hydrographic surveys can give you a picture of the bottom [of the sea floor] and the bathymetric survey gives you exact depths in order to create underwater maps.
Pacific Partnership: How do you think your job ties into the overall Pacific Partnership mission?
Holly: Divers have a big fingerprint in the Navy, but a lot of people don’t know who we are. We can fix parts of a ship, find something that went overboard, map out underwater locations, or find a place to possibly build a pier.
Pacific Partnership: How do you feel about collaborating with other militaries and NGO’s on board and traveling to these foreign places?
Holly: As far as seeing other countries and other people, I think it makes me proud all over again that I joined the Navy.
Petty Officer Sean Burke has been a medic in the Australian Navy for 13 years and is aboard USS Pearl Harbor for his first Pacific Partnership mission.
Pacific Partnership: Did you volunteer to participate in Pacific Partnership?
Sean: I volunteered. It’s quite hard, especially for medics in our navy to get this. I’ve applied for two other Pacific Partnerships. We have to submit a resume and all our qualifications.
Pacific Partnership: What motivated you to apply?
Sean: Really, I wanted to work with the U.S. Navy, to come on board a U.S. Navy ship, and to see how your medical organization works as well.
Pacific Partnership: What’s the value to a collaborative effort like Pacific Partnership?
Sean: I think it’s a great experience for all nations involved, and especially NGO’s to see how the military operates in these environments. I think the more nations involved – the better.
Pacific Partnership: Have you met anyone interesting on board?
Sean: Veterinarians. I didn’t really contemplate that there would be vets on board. That was a bit of a surprise, but it’s not much of a surprise when you think of the whole scheme of things that we’re doing here.