Members of the Pacific Partnership team pose for a group photo at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hoa Lien Nursery School, May 12. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Joshua Fulton)

DA NANG, Vietnam - Pacific Partnership 2017 Da Nang team members joined with partner nation representatives and local residents to celebrate the completed construction of the Hoa Lien Nursery School with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 12 near Da Nang, Vietnam.

U.S. Navy Seabees from Navy Mobile Construction Battalion THREE (NMCB 3) and Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE (ACB-1) partnered with counterparts from the Japanese military to construct the school over a 51 day period.

The humanitarian assistance project afforded the Pacific Partnership construction crew the opportunity to interact with Vietnamese community members during the building process. Local residents and their children came to the construction site daily, excited to learn more about the building of the school and the construction team. This constant interaction helped develop a friendly bond between the Seabees and the Vietnamese populace.

"Every day during the morning, at lunch, and in the early afternoon children would ride their bikes by the construction site, so a couple of us would get together and grab some soccer balls, volleyballs and other toys and play with the kids," said Steelworker 2nd Class Shianne Chulpacek of NMCB 3. "They would always get so excited when we came back to work; one of the kids would always bring a soccer ball and we would have a pickup game. Everyone just joined together and had a good time."

The adult residents joined in the fun, offering their building expertise to the Pacific Partnership construction crew.

"For this project we used stucco, a building material which our team did not have much experience in using," said Ensign Emily Wolff, Officer in Charge (OIC) of the project. "The adults from around the area would come up to the fence, and playfully laugh at us for what we were doing wrong with the stucco, yelling over the fence and using hand gestures to try and help us correct any mistakes. One man ended up coming in a teaching a class for us, and that was really awesome. A lot of the Seabees really learned from it."

The lasting impact from the Nursery School's construction is twofold, in that it provided the local residents with a quality education center while also creating an unforgettable camaraderie between the Pacific Partnership team members and local nationals.

"This project had a huge impact on the local community and was eye-opening for a lot of the U.S. team as well," said Chulpacek. "This is the first deployment for a number of the Seabees, so they got to see a different side of the world and that their hard work really does make a major difference, not just in the projects we leave behind but also the positive relationships we foster."

"The local children had never really interacted with Americans at all prior to this project, and this gave them a great first impression of us," said Wolff. "Seeing the kids come up day after day, and yell out all of our names and hugging us and wanting to play games, that was really cool and will be something that I will always remember and the children will always remember."

The positive results of the schools construction builds upon the success of previous Pacific Partnership missions, enhancing partnerships and relationships in the region through humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness engagements.

"We slowly eased our way in here with past Pacific Partnership missions and built trust over time, and I think more and more projects are going to happen here as a result of everything that was accomplished," said Wolff. "The school itself is top of the line, but it is only a small portion of what the Seabees accomplished here in Vietnam."