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NEWS | June 27, 2022

Seabees Work with Fiji Military Forces to Build School

By Leslie Hull-Ryde

FIJI -- Engineers assigned to U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion THREE and members of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) are building a two-room classroom for the Navonu Primary School in Vanua Levu, Fiji, as part of Pacific Partnership 2022 (PP22).

Now in its 17th year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific Region. As part of Pacific Partnership 2022 (PP22), the mission team conducts missions throughout Oceania and the Western Pacific. The Pacific Partnership 22 team works with host nation counterparts and regional partners to provide tailored medical, dental, and veterinary care and conduct bilateral engineering civic actions, and exchange information related to disaster response processes and procedures. Engagements vary based on host nation requirements and requests.

In Fiji, the school’s leadership joined a combined team of engineers from the U.S. Navy and RFMF to break ground on the new classrooms May 26.

Lt. Inia Celua, of the Republic of Fijian Military Forces Engineer Regiment, believes the Navonu project increases interoperability between his team and the U.S. Navy Seabees. He says understanding each other’s techniques and how to use a variety of materials benefit both nations, particularly if called upon in the event of a natural disaster or humanitarian relief effort.

“This exercise will lay the foundation for better HA/DR operations for the Fijian government and Fijian citizens,” Celua says.

This project may provide students a newly constructed classroom, but grade-school students aren’t the only ones learning a thing or two while on the Navonu campus.

The U.S. Navy Seabees are taking a few notes of their own during Pacific Partnership.

“We are learning that project management and supply chain logistics can be challenging when operating in a remote location like this,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade, Kyle Carmody, PP22 officer in charge of Fiji planning.

Carmody says the RFMF engineers are sharing their professional insights and construction methods, specifically those involving block and stucco.

“U.S. Navy Seabees are learning new and useful methods of construction that are not commonly taught. These techniques often save time and improve the quality of construction,” said Lt.j.g. Carmody.

“With these newly taught efficiencies, Seabees are able to pass on knowledge to their teammates for future ‘just enough, just in time’ construction response.”

Celua says his engineers gain valuable training too.

“We see how the Seabees pour the building foundation and use formwork and aggregate to prevent the building from sinking and how to get better quality concrete.”

In addition, both sides are sharing leadership lessons, specifically different approaches on how to lead a diverse group of international engineers.

Leaders from both sides say this insight would be helpful during combined operations.

“The lessons we learn during Pacific Partnership will enable future Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB), and possibly other expeditionary forces, to successfully plan and execute deployments with the Fijian military and will hopefully help us prepare to work throughout the region during future construction operations, humanitarian assistance or disaster relief efforts,” Lt.j.g. Carmody said.

“As Seabees have learned through countless deployments around the world, we cannot solely rely on ourselves for mission execution. Working closely with host and partner nations is vital to the successful completion of engineering operations. Understanding that mission accomplishment is achieved through a team effort and knowing the specific roles everyone plays is vital to the overall success for everyone.”

These long-term benefits of Pacific Partnership in Fiji go beyond the classroom.

“By providing this facility, the RFMF and the Seabees taking part in Pacific Partnership not only help create educational spaces for Fijian students, but constructing this school together also strengthens our partnership with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and the local community.”

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