U.S. Navy Seabee Navy Lt. Brent Oglesby, the officer-in-charge of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3’s Construction Civic Action Detail in Timor-Leste, receives a tais, or scarf, from a Timorese girl during an official ribbon cutting ceremony and close of the 28-day Sapper 13 exercise. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Fahey)

METRINARO, Timor-Leste - Nearly 200 American, Australian and Timorese watched as the Duyung community located in Timor-Leste’s Metinaro province received a three-classroom school house, playground and related support facilities, during an official ribbon cutting ceremony held Monday, Oct. 28.

The ribbon cutting marked the end of Sapper 13 – a multilateral exercise designed to increase interoperability between U.S. Navy Seabees, U.S. Marine Corps combat engineers, Royal Australian Engineers and engineers from the Timor-Leste Defense Force.

This was the first year an exercise of its kind was executed in Timor-Leste.

Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, Marine combat engineers from the 9th Engineering Support Battalion and Australian engineers from the Australian Defense Force 1st Combat Engineering Regiment teamed up with F-FDTL engineers to increase interoperability and share construction techniques specific to their service.

“Sapper 13 also has a broader significance,” said Scott B. Ticknor, the acting chief of mission from the U.S. Embassy in Timor-Leste, during his address. “Participants not only built personal friendships with each other, but strengthened the relationship between Australia, Timor-Leste and the United States.”

Total, the team completed the school house, an outside bathroom facility, kitchenette, playground, built more than 60 desks and chairs, six chalkboards, a below-ground septic tank and a protective security fence installed around the school’s grounds.

The new facilities will allow the school’s staff to teach three times as many classes to the more than 300 students currently enrolled.

“I’m very happy with the new building,” said the school’s director Duarte Amara. “It has great quality and in much better shape than the ones we were using. On behalf of our country, thank you to all who helped support us.”

In addition to Sapper 13, Seabees from NCMB 3 are deployed to Timor-Leste to execute engineering civic assistance projects, conduct formal training with the host nation and perform community relations events to help enhance shared capabilities and improve the country’s social welfare.

One of the first battalions commissioned during World War II, NMCB 3’s legacy stands strong in its ability to build and fight anywhere in the world as either a full battalion or as a group of autonomous detachments, simultaneously completing critical engineering and construction missions.

For this deployment, NMCB 3 has split into nine details to perform critical construction projects in remote island areas such as Timor-Leste, Tonga, Cambodia and the Philippines. The teams will also conduct operations in Atsugi, Yokosuka and Okinawa, Japan, Chinhae, Republic of Korea and China Lake, Calif. The naval construction force is a vital component of the U.S. maritime strategy. They provide deployable battalions capable of providing disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance and combat operations support.

NMCB 3 provides combatant commanders and Navy component commanders with combat-ready warfighters capable of general engineering, construction and limited combat engineering across the full range of military operations.

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jim Arbelaez, left, Australian Engineer Sapper Greg Littleboy, U.S. Navy Seabee Construction Electrician 3rd Class Hezekiah Morgan, and Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) Engineer 2nd Lt. Gilberto Soares share installation techniques for an outdoor flood light during the final days of Sapper 13.
Sapper 13 construction and planning leadership conduct a meeting in a new classroom the team finished meeting just moments prior during the final days of the exercise.
Australian, U.S. and Timorese engineers place playground equipment during the final days of Sapper 13.
A Timorese boy takes the first slide on a new playground during the final days of Sapper 13.