Civil engineers plumb their way to brighter future for PACANGEL
By Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
/ Published June 04, 2015
EASTERN HIGHLANDS PROVINCE, Papua New Guinea -- In the remote highlands high above Goroka, Papua New Guinea, sits Gahuku Primary School, the Pacific Angel engineering team's largest project. More than 1,000 students climb up and down rickety stairs daily while ferrying between eight classrooms with standing room only.
Fourteen U.S. military civil engineers work with counterparts from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, the New Zealand Army and the Australian air force to renovate five sites across the Eastern Highlands Province.
The team is working at three schools to replace old doors, locks, broken windows and screens, install lights in classrooms and put working plumbing and sinks in a science laboratory for the first time.
"Our primary focus is to take out the safety hazards and improve the electrical work," said Master Sgt. Steven Viau, 15th Civil Engineer Squadron lead engineering planner for Pacific Angel. "We'll cover [exposed wires] and put in a conduit to make sure no one gets shocked ... The engineers will accomplish a number of projects ranging from electrical to structural requirements ... All-in-all, this makes it a safer place for students to come to school every day."
Following the government's decision to make primary education free for all Papua New Guineans, many students who had been left out now stream back to school. Last year, there were 500 students at the school, said Andrew Songo, Gahuku Primary School chairman.
Although the recommendation for classes is 40 students to one teacher, there are more than 100 students in each of the eight teachers' classes, ranging from children to adults in their late twenties, according to Songo.
Working together the nations shared techniques and traded knowledge allowing them to increase efficiency and come together to help the local community.
"It's a very rewarding feeling to be able to come out here and see all the students and see a smile on their faces," Viau said. "They know we're here to help, so it's a humbling experience, and it's one of those that will probably never be forgotten by any people here, as well as the students and staff [who] work here."
At the end of the project, the chairman for the primary school thanked the workers for their outstanding job.
"I can't put into words how happy I am to have our local defence force and the other nations help fix our school," Songo said. "Seeing our defence force working with the other nations, we feel like we are a part of the South Pacific. It will be nice for the students to be able to get what they need to learn, and we can come together to give them those better opportunities."