Navy Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) Clifford Rutledge takes a selfie with students at República de Colombia Elementary School in Silin, Honduras, Aug. 1, 2017. Sailors participated in a community relations project as part of Southern Partnership Station 2017, a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject-matter-expert exchanges with partner-nation militaries and security forces in Central and South America. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Starr
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Seabees, Medical Experts Help Honduran Students
By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Starr, Southern Partnership Station 17
SILIN, Honduras, Aug. 8, 2017 — Sailors assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and medical professionals from the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence participated in a community relations project at the República de Colombia Elementary School in Silin, Honduras, Aug. 1.
The sailors provided entomology education to the students and made building improvements, including repairs to a faulty restroom, as part of the Southern Partnership Station 2017 mission.
“This was the first [community relations event] of the mission, and it was very successful and rewarding,” said Navy Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) Lee Rutledge, assigned to Naval Surface Squadron 14. “It was great to see the enthusiasm of our sailors and the joy on the children’s faces.”
During the project, the Seabees repaired the school’s restroom plumbing system by installing new PVC piping and replacing toilet assembly parts. The restroom’s plumbing had not worked properly for the past decade.
“I am really excited the Seabees are fixing our restroom,” said School Director Ivonne Dixiana Morazán. “We have brought many people throughout the years, and they could not fix it. These pipes have not worked since 2005.”
The community relations event was the first for Navy Seaman Dever Kelly since he joined the Navy, and he said he was excited to have the opportunity to enrich the lives of local children.
“It was meaningful for me to be here … and to provide a service that can benefit these children,” Kelly said. “I have never laid pipe down before, and I was able to do that. It was fun.”
Seventy-eight students filled the classroom where Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ian Sutherland, technical director for the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence, and his colleagues taught. During the class, Sutherland gave a presentation on entomology, showing the differences between harmless and dangerous insects, and what precautions the children should take to stay healthy and prevent diseases.
“I had a blast in the class,” Sutherland said. “We had a game with the students, that if they answered a question right, they received a toy bug, which they were ecstatic about. And if they got it wrong, I had to do push-ups.”
The class later split up into groups for hands-on sessions with mosquito traps and with microscopes to observe live insect specimens. After the class, several students brought Sutherland the insects they caught in cups.
“When the students brought me the bugs, it gave me satisfaction and it verified that they received the information that we gave them,” Sutherland said.
The project marked the first time U.S. sailors have visited this school. Staff members expressed their gratitude for the support the sailors gave to them and the students.
“The class was very good, creative, and interesting,” Morazán said. “This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these students to see this kind of presentation, and [for] the sailors who provided it. We appreciated the sailors coming out and helping out the school.”
Southern Partnership 2017 sailors are scheduled to participate in four additional community relations events during the Honduras mission stop. Mission leaders are excited for the prospect of more similar opportunities in the future.
“We are trying to breathe life into these schools, and we will continue to provide the services these children and schools need, regardless of the situation, from plumbing, painting or entomology training,” Rutledge said.