Tonga Defense Force Lance Cpl. Saili Laisolo and Builder 3rd Class Paige Abernathy, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3’s Construction Civic Action Detail in Tonga, high five after completing a row of block, Dec. 18. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Fahey)

TE'EKIU, Tonga - Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3's Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) in Tonga reached the halfway point in their construction of a new community center and disaster response center here, Dec. 18.

Seabees have teamed up with the Tonga Defense Force (TDF) to build the 710-square foot structure that will provide the Te'ekiu community with a place to find safe shelter during storms and hold community events.

"Our community doesn't have the money to pay for things like this," said Tevide Tewaho, a Te'ekiu resident and father of three. "During a hurricane or something like that we would gather in our chapel. Now, with this new center, we feel much safer. My family is very thankful to the Navy."

The solid cement structure is framed in high-density steel with a concrete foundation. Its construction took a wide range of engineering trades that required efficient teamwork between the TDS-Seabee team.

"They've become our friends," said Equipment Operator 3rd Class Elizabeth Andrews. "We communicate really well, we help each other without having to ask and when it comes to laying block - which is more than half of our project - they've been doing it for years. It's been a really great experience."

Enhancing shared capabilities is a core benefit of the CCAD's primary construction mission while in Tonga. The nearly $700K project has allowed the two forces to share construction techniques and strengthen friendships between Tonga and the U.S.

The Seabee-TDS team is on track to complete the project by February 2014.

NMCB 3 is a vital component of the U.S. Maritime Strategy, providing details deployed to Okinawa, Atsugi and Yokosuka, Japan; Chinhae, Republic of Korea; China Lake and San Clemente Island, Calif; Timor-Leste, Tonga, Cambodia and the Republic of the Philippines. Each operate independently and are capable of providing disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance, and combat operations support, while the U.S. rebalances forces in the Pacific.