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US military teams up with Suriname to build schools

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Laura Fuerst
  • 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Over the course of the next three months, service members from both the U.S. and Suriname will team-up in a partnership that will create a lasting impact for the community of Paramaribo.

Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, Chicopee, Mass., and Airmen from the 820th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., will combine efforts to help the local community by constructing additional buildings for two schools this summer as part of New Horizons 2011.

New Horizons is a cooperative effort between the Government of Suriname and United States Southern Command that provides training opportunities for the U.S. military and Suriname while helping improve the quality of life for the people of the community here.

"The purpose is to expand the students' classroom capability," said Air Force Capt. Mark Johansen, lead task force engineer, 820th RED HORSE. "The additional building will have air-conditioning so it's also able to serve as a multi-media center and can be used for conferences as well."

Johansen said he feels that the service members taking part in New Horizons gain valuable training while helping the people of Suriname.

"This type of training benefits our Marines because they actually get to pack their bags and go out of the country," said Marine 1st Lt. Jeff Starbird, site foreman with MWSS 472. "We do this type of construction as almost a secondary mission so we need the construction experience. It's an overall awesome experience for everybody."

The airmen and Marines also learn how to communicate effectively with their Surinamese counterparts, who provide 24-hour job site security, said Starbird.

"It's a teaching and a building experience all at once. Everyone is super interested as we are learning about Surinamese building techniques and they are learning about ours," he said, adding that "the students of the school are able to watch the progress and learn skills from the service members while they build the adjacent classrooms."

Later this week, the students are scheduled to take what they have been learning and apply it to help the service members with the construction of their new classroom building.

"We are happy that they are here," said Hemautkoemar Poeran, principle of Lelydorp Technical School. "It's the first time our school has had a project like this and the students are excited."