An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | Sept. 3, 2019

NMCB 1 Completes School for Indigenous Colombian Tribe

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/EXW) Peter Lewis

Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) ONE, along with their Colombian army counterparts, completed construction of a new school for the indigenous Wayuu people in the rural community of Riohacha, Colombia, August 29, as part of Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2019.

The new construction features solar panels, ceiling fans, and multiple classrooms furnished with chairs and desks. The school was officially turned over to the Wayuu people during a ceremony on August 30.

“With compassion for others, we build, we fight, for peace with freedom,” said Cmdr. Michael Meno, commanding officer, NMCB 1, echoing the words of the Seabee motto. “We don’t just build buildings and water wells, or provide water. We provide hope; hope for people that are in need. It shows that the United States cares about people across the world and it gives us a chance to work with our partner nations to make their lives just a little bit better.”

During the ceremony, the Wayuu villagers and invited guests expressed gratitude for the Seabees’ effort in building the new facility, and said that the school will have a huge impact on the local community for years to come.

“The new classrooms will have an extremely important benefit. The preschool children, the
youngest ones, will benefit the most. They have needed these new classrooms for a long time,” said Principal Lisan Duarte, Los Remedios 2 School. “It has been a beautiful experience to have you here. This has been marvelous and we like how the military members work.”

“Thank you for providing these facilities that will, in the long-run, provide the fundamental right to education to over 600 children in the local community,” said Jhon Eduardo Fuentes Medina, governor of the Colombian state of La Guajira. “[We thank you] for this work. The children of the Wayuu community have a right to dream of their future and you have provided that with this educational facility.”

Before, during and after the ceremony, the Wayuu people continued to praise the efforts of the Seabees and expressed a deep desire for their return in the future.

“It has been a fantastic experience to work with you because you are very honorable and humane and you have enriched us. We see the love that you have for our children. It has been wonderful to have you here,” said Emilce Ceballos, preschool teacher, Los Remedios 2 School. “We would be delighted if you could come back. I know that you have big hearts and that you enjoy coming to help in this country where there is a lot of need.”

“I really hope that you can return,” added Duarte. “I know that if you can come back that you will bring some more beautiful work that will benefit the community, the children, and the teachers. I hope you come back!”

NMCB 1 is homeported in Gulfport, Mississippi, to prepare and execute a comprehensive unit-level training plan in order to meet future mission requirements.

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.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet is responsible for U.S. Naval forces in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility, including the Caribbean, Central and South America.

For more information and news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit,, and