Local officials and U.S. Embassy representatives, including U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste Kathleen Fitzpatrick, gather for a photo with Seabess from NMCB 5, June 23. (U.S. Embassy Timor-Leste)

DILI, Timor-Leste - U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5’s Timor-Leste detail conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 100th Seabee project in Timor-Leste, a two-room education facility at the Ensino Basico Central Fatumeta Pre-Secondary School, June 23.

Seabees have operated in Timor-Leste for over 10 consecutive years providing high-quality construction and humanitarian assistance. By working in coordination with the U.S. Embassy and local defense forces, the Seabees have strengthened the enduring relationship between the U.S. and Timor-Leste’s government, military, and local communities.

“Seabees have really made their mark here in Timor-Leste since they arrived in 2009,” said U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste Kathleen Fitzpatrick. “They rehabilitate schools, health clinics, and other facilities that support the educational development and wellbeing of thousands of Timorese. The facilities they construct have a direct impact on improving Timorese communities, especially in remote locations.”

Seabees completed their first projects in Timor-Leste in 2009 constructing a pump-house and renovating an electrical system that provides well-water to a school. Since then, multiple community facilities have been renovated, many schools and medical clinics have been built, and two cable bridges were engineered and constructed to provide medical and logistical access to communities otherwise isolated due to adverse weather impacts during the year.

The 100th project replaces a degraded existing structure in the Fatumeta School compound that serves over 1,300 students in the area. The new schoolhouse benefits the local Timorese community by providing an improved learning environment with space to educate and develop children in the nation’s capital.

Starting April 1, Builder 3rd Class Jahrual Lloyd, deployed with NMCB-5, led a crew of 10 in the construction of the new two-room school. Set on a concrete slab, the building consists of columns, concrete masonry unit blocks, interior electrical, louvered glass windows, wooden doors, stucco, and corrugated roofing.

Working during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seabees were forced to adjust how they operate to meet U.S. military and Timor-Leste requirements regarding crew sizes and social distancing. By quickly adapting to new restrictions, the team was able to overcome unforeseen challenges and complete the project under budget and ahead of schedule.

Chief Builder Charles Sprague, the Timor-Leste detail's operations officer, expressed his admiration for the crew.

“I am amazed by the crew’s ability to adapt and overcome the unique challenges faced while operating in the changing environment of a pandemic,” said Sprague. “Coming together and growing to new heights, they were able to consistently accomplish all daily goals and maintain the operational tempo needed to finish the project. I have high aspirations for the men and women of this detail.”

The Seabees have been working alongside the local Timorese and the U.S. Embassy Dili, Timor-Leste, for the past decade, constructing humanitarian projects and participating in joint exercises—to include building schools and cable bridges, and participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training. This project commemorates the long-standing U.S. commitment to maintain an extremely important and mutually beneficial partnership with Timor-Leste.

NMCB-5 is deployed across the Indo-Pacific region conducting high-quality construction to support U.S. and partner nations to strengthen partnerships, deter aggression, and enable expeditionary logistics and naval power projection. The battalion stands ready to support humanitarian aid/disaster relief and major combat operations throughout the region.

Equipment Operator 3rd Class Whittney Chelewski, left, holds Construction Electrician Constructionman Brandon Siciliano's ladder while he measures out conduit for an electrical switch, and Builder 3rd Class Jaidean Soto applies a finish coat of paint at Fatumeta’s school, June 3. (U.S.Navy/BU3 Sierra Hall)

Steelworker 3rd Class Tobias Sickler, left, and Builder 2nd Class Matthewclear the land prior to placing stair forms at Fatumeta’s school, June 3. (U.S.Navy/BU3 Sierra Hall)

Utilitiesman Constructionman Mario Moreno measures two-by-four boards for a gable truss roof at Fatumeta’s school, May 21. (U.S.Navy/BU3 Sierra Hall)