Building for education
21 June 2016
A team of 11 Air force engineers (and three on-site medical staff) have been working alongside the US Navy's CBs and local Timor Army construction personnel in Dili rebuilding a new school house at the Manleuana School as part of Exercise Pacific Partnership 2016.
The engineers from the Air Force's Number 65 Airfield Engineers Squadron based at RAAF Richmond have been diligently working to build the three room school building to replace the former building that was damaged in past earthquakes.
Construction hasn't been all fair sailing. Weather conditions have, at times, been extreme with torrential downpours, temperatures soaring to over 45 degrees and with relative humidity of 90 percent hampering efforts.
Flight Lieutenant Aaron Swallow, the lead Australian project engineer, said that it had been a challenge that all of the Australian engineers have stepped up to working together as a team.
"Managing a construction site at an active school with a hundred children around has been interesting," he said.
"Materials and methods have had to be adapted for the climate and conditions.
"However, the health and safety of our people and the children has been paramount."
But it hasn't all been hard work. The engineers have had some fun times interacting with the teachers and the children during their breaks, often playing soccer with the older children and helping serve lunch to the younger ones. For their efforts, the children have been singing for them.
Corporal Shane Watts, the building supervisor, and plumber by trade, said that while it's challenging work in the hot and muggy climate, the rewards of seeing the smiling faces of the children and teachers made it all worthwhile.
"It's a great feeling helping out and seeing the happy faces of the children as the building takes shape," he said.
"It really makes you proud to be an Aussie."