Pacific Partnership 2010 Seabees Work on the Shining Star of Morotai
TOBELO, Indonesia - U.S. Navy Seabees from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 from Gulfport, Miss., completed their renovations of the inpatient ward in the World War II Daruba Hospital on the island of Morotai here, with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 15, as part of the Pacific Partnership 2010 engineering civic action program (ENCAP). Officials from the local government and hospital staff, Pacific Partnership Mission Commander Capt. Lisa M. Franchetti, and area residents were on hand for the festive event.
The Daruba Hospital that was constructed in 1945 and utilized by allied forces in World War II was once the shining star of this beautiful island and is well on its way to being that again. This ENCAP is an effort to restore a major part of the hospital that is vital to the people in the surrounding area. Some of the work that was completed is roof repairs, replacing over 2,500 sq. ft. of tile, new windows and doors, installation of electrical fixtures, refinishing the interior and exterior walls, painting the entire structure inside and out, and cleaning up the landscape.
“Everybody was wondering why we had such a warm welcome and as we started talking with the locals we found out that Morotai was utilized by the U.S. and its allies during World War II,” said Construction Electrician 2nd Class Jacob Simino, the project’s crew leader. “Pacific Partnership is about showing the people of the host nation that we really care about them. The previous use by Allied forces of this hospital is a historical fact that is in the hearts and minds of the locals no matter what their age is. As you drive around the island you can’t help but notice all the World War II memorabilia that is around the island from bomb shells to .50 caliber machine guns in people’s front yards.”
Today, people of the town walk by and can’t help but to stop and stare. There is never a moment where the crew is without an audience. The local children play close by, occasionally inviting the Seabees to a friendly game of soccer. The hospital’s nurses and physicians excitedly peek in the building to see the miraculous transformation it has undergone in just a few short weeks.
“This has truly been a rewarding experience,” said Utilitiesman 2nd Class Anthony Sheffield. “It’s not every day that you get to work in a place where the people truly appreciate what you are doing; I am going to miss them.”
Currently, the hospital serves 15,000 residents on the island. The staff includes two doctors, one dentist, and 39 nurses. The hospital consist of two examination rooms, a storage room, a dental room, an emergency room, a health insurance office, a laboratory, a first aid room, a radiology room, a pediatric room, and four bathrooms. This extension will bring back to service various areas that were not able to be used previously due to its dilapidated structure.
This clinic, like most Pacific Partnership exercise project sites that are in need of renovations or related work, is co-determined by the host nation government and the ENCAP team leadership. The members of NMCB 11 have been working endless days to meet the tight completion schedule. The renovations will affect over 1,000 patients per month providing them with a clean and safe environment to conduct its services to the community.
"The work is going well despite the difficulty to acquire materials in such a remote location,” said Builder 3rd Class John Richard Gernhard. “But the best part of all is that this building will be used for another 50 years and the kids we play soccer with will be able to get proper access to healthcare. That alone is worth what we are doing.”
The engineering project is part of Pacific Partnership 2010, the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet endeavors conducted in Indonesia as a disaster relief exercise aimed at strengthening regional partnerships and increasing interoperability with U.S. interagency, host nations, partner nations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.
To date, Pacific Partnership 2010 has included visits to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.