News: Seabees build strong foundation and friendship in Tonga
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Samuel Weldin
YOKOSUKA, Japan - The Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 represent the pride and dedication in which the U.S. Navy is renowned, assisting Seventh Fleet allies and partners with construction and humanitarian projects all around the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
The Seabees recently completed construction of a community center and disaster shelter in The Kingdom of Tonga, a remote group of islands in the South Pacific, working sided by side with local Tongan Defense Service (TDS) Engineers.
“Tonga wishes to extend its sincere appreciation to the U.S. Navy Seabees for their continued support to the people of Tonga,” said Tonga Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano. “Thank you for all your hard work during the six months that you’ve been here. Our community regards this project as one of the most significant contributions to our country.”
Over the last six months, the team of engineers built the Te’ekiu Community Center and Disaster Shelter. The 710 square meter structure includes an open assembly hall, office, storage, kitchen, men's and women's restrooms, designated stage area, outdoor cooking pit, rain water catchment system, septic tank and sewer system.
The project which not only provided a new shelter for the people of Tonga was also a vital key to building and maintaining a positive relationship with this partner nation as part of a larger Seventh Fleet Theatre Security Cooperation (TSC) and humanitarian objective.
“The Seabees delivered this monument on budget, on schedule and with zero safety mishaps,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Rod Moore, commander of 30th Naval Construction Regiment.
The entire project’s budget was just under $650,000 and took six months from August 2013 to February 2014 to complete. The undertaking of this project was initially classified as high risk due to weather predictions and a tight production schedule. With careful and deliberate preparation through Seabee leadership, a plan was set in motion and the crew did not succumb to any major setbacks.
“I can't express how proud I am of the team and the tremendous and meaningful effects this dedicated team has had on not just the local level, but also on the national level of one of our most solid partner nations,” said Moore. “The quality of the construction reflected Seabee pride and professionalism at its finest.”
Typically eight TDS engineers worked side by side with the Seabees over the duration of the project. The Tongan community also supported the Seabees thru access control, providing food and other tasks such as painting. The two groups developed mutual respect for one another through increased skill attainment and shared knowledge.
“This was one of the most challenging projects we've attempted in a single unit's deployment. Focus on safety and quality, zero to 100 percent in six months, executed in partnership with Tongan military engineers and the community,” said Moore. “The Seabees overcame scale, scope, long logistics tail, and technical site challenges. I firmly believe this was a grand slam for the U.S. and Tonga.”
The project concluded by a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony. The traditional Tongan ceremony was comprised of three parts and lasted five hours. The guest list was quite prominent and included Tonga's Crown Prince His Royal Highness Tupouto'a Ulukalala, Chief of Tongan Defense Services General Uta'atu, several clergy leaders and hundreds of members from the community. Distinguished members of the United States included U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Jeffrey Robertson, and Pacific Command representative U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. William Burks, Nevada Adjutant General. The exuberant mood of the celebration was not extinguished one bit by the rainy and muddy conditions on that day. These conditions were similar to the ones faced by NMCB3 throughout the construction.
The Pacific Fleet Naval Construction Force has been a crucial block in the foundation of U.S. Seventh Fleet for over 70 years. Their Seabees are critical in providing disaster prevention measures, recovery support, humanitarian assistance and combat operations support. This project is added to the NMCB 3 list of many great successes throughout the area of operation and most certainly will not be the last.
The Seabees of NMCB 3 are home ported in Port Hueneme, Calif., and recently returned from their deployment throughout the U.S. Seventh Fleet, where they built on and strengthened the partnerships in the region.