SIHANOUK VILLE, Cambodia — Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40 renovated a schoolhouse here last month that had stood empty for nine years due to its poor condition.
“Fighting 40” Seabees spent three weeks completing critical structural upgrades at the Hun Sein Khrong Primary School, allowing 1,000 students to learn in a safer environment.
“It has been a good experience working at the school and giving back to the local community,” said Builder 2nd Class Anthony Gonzalez, “though I hope we can finish what we started. I think what we have done has made a difference.”
Seabees plan to demolish existing staircases at the school and install a new set of stairs with guardrails. They also plan to patch and paint the exterior of the building.
“It has been hot and rainy the whole time we have been at this school,” said Builder Constructionman Jeremy Tatum, “but the staff and students still come out and check on the Seabees and our progress, letting us know that what we are doing is making a difference for this community.”
The members of the detail have all had the opportunity to work at the school, improving the overall condition of the schoolhouse. Though the project is not complete, the Seabees are motivated to continue work once materials can be procured.
“It has been great working at the school,” said Utilitiesman Constructionman Christopher Barningham. “It has provided me with the opportunity to help the local population and give back to the students and staff. I feel that this is one of the reasons why we do these types of deployments — to really show the world that we are not only about fighting wars, but also helping people.”
School improvement projects present an opportunity for Seabees to practice their skills while improving community relations between Cambodians and the U.S. Navy. This project in particular has had an immediate impact; the building has been reopened, alleviating crowding issues and lack of seats for the students.