An I-Kiribati girl presents a traditional garland to Capt. James Meyer, commander of Task Force Forager and Pacific Partnership deputy mission commander, during a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the completion of renovations at Temwanoku Primary School by U.S. Navy Seabees. (U.S. Navy/MCC Jonathan Kulp)

TARAWA, Kiribati - With three clicks of scissors, distinguished guests cut the ribbon on Temwanoku Primary School, June 17, officially marking the completion of renovations at the school during Pacific Partnership 2015.

Commodore, Task Force Forager, Capt. James Meyer, Kiribati Minister of Education, Maere Tekanene, and Principal of Red Beach Primary School, Mary Noere, cut the ribbon and as it fell, children, teachers, and parents cheered and clapped in excitement. Members of the local community and Task Force Forager personnel, including Seabees attached to PP15, spent approximately 17,650 man hours renovating the school.

“It was an amazing experience seeing the smiles on their faces and seeing them running around and checking out the school,” said Utilitiesman Constructionman Amber Woods, a Seabee assigned to Pacific Partnership 2015. “They were so excited. That feeling when the ribbon was cut, handing over all the hard work we did, it felt really good.”

Seabees and volunteers renovated four buildings – interior and exterior. In three buildings they installed new doors, security screens, paint and gutters. In two buildings they installed new concrete pads with water catchment tanks. In all classrooms, the Seabees refurbished or replaced the chalkboards and installed new electrical lights and switches.

“It seems like we arrived just yesterday, but it has been 15 days,” said Meyer. “In that very short amount of time we accomplished a lot. My hat is off to the combined efforts of the Seabees, Task Force personnel and members of the community that made this happen. It truly was a team effort!”

When speaking to the Seabees about the work accomplished, Meyer had this to say: “If there are any questions of why you worked so hard for the past 15 days I think it is evident as you look out in front of you, a school that supports almost 1,000 children and the smiles you have earned from the work you have done.”

According to Meyer, the renovations mean much more than simple repairs. “These renovated buildings represent the strong partnership that we built with the Kiribati people during the short two weeks together,” he said. “The intensity of the friendship and relationship is more important than the duration- it’s what helps a relationship endure well into the future.”

The Military Sealift Command joint high speed vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) and embarked Task Force Forager, led by an expeditionary command element from the Navy's 30th Naval Construction Regiment (30 NCR) from Port Hueneme, California, are currently serving as the secondary platform for Pacific Partnership 2015. The primary platform for the mission is the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).

Now in its tenth iteration, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region. While training for crisis conditions, Pacific Partnership missions have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals. Additionally, the mission has provided critical infrastructure developments to host nations through the completion of more than 180 engineering projects.