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News | July 30, 2019

Seabees Begin Construction of New School for Indigenous Colombian Wayuu Tribe

By Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Lewis

RIOHACHA, Colombia (July 26, 2019) – The Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2019 Seabee detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ONE (NMCB 1) began construction of a new school for Colombia’s indigenous Wayuu people.

Construction of the school will take approximately six weeks and is scheduled to be completed in late August.

“Building this schoolhouse is going to benefit the local Wayuu people by providing the educational tools for the kids to succeed in the community,” said Builder 2nd Class Hector Juarez, the construction site manager. “Our Seabees are here working hard to make sure we provide the locals with a great building so the kids can maximize their learning for years to come.” 

The Seabees spent the long days working alongside their Colombian army counterparts, exchanging different construction techniques, and learning new skills from each other. 

“Working together, we both have learned a lot and there’s still more to come,” Juarez added. “Some of their techniques have taught more traditional construction means, while our tools have helped [the Colombian engineers] gain experience with [newer] technology. So we both have gained a lot.”

The Seabees agreed that the experience has been enriching, both in knowledge gained and in personal experience.

“I feel really strongly about SPS and being a part of it. It makes you feel really humble seeing different parts of the world, especially seeing the kids and how they interact with us,” said Utilitiesman 3rd Class Ashly Cruz. “Being a part of SPS has been eye-opening. It makes me feel humble and I’d love to be part of it again.”

SPS is an annual series of U.S. Navy deployments focused on exchanges with regional partner nation militaries and security forces. SPS 19 consists of fly-away deployments of adaptive force packages to Barbados, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru to conduct training and subject matter expert exchanges to improve capacity in medical, dive operations, and engineering. 

SPS is part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative and reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Caribbean, Central and South America. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet is committed to supporting the efforts of partner nations to increase institutional capacity and regional collaboration for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief – one of the greatest challenges facing the region.

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