Pacific Unity 14-8 culminates in Papua New Guinea with large cultural fest
By Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden, PACUNITY Public Affairs
/ Published September 15, 2014
MOUNT HAGEN, Papua New Guinea -- Thousands of members of the local community came together in song and dance to celebrate the closing ceremony for Pacific Unity 14-8 in traditional Papua New Guinea fashion Sept. 12, 2014.
Pacific Unity is a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program conducted with host nation civil authorities and military personnel. The primary mission of Pacific Unity 14-8 is to construct two new dormitories for female students at Togoba Secondary School while promoting interoperability between the U.S. and Papua New Guinea.
During the four-week long operation the 34-manned team of Airmen partnered with members of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force and day laborers from the local community not only completed the dormitories but also managed to complete several additional projects which enhanced the overall condition of the school.
Among those project were replacing the school's covered walkway, upgrading the drainage system around the girl's dormitories, repairing waterlines for rain catchment tanks, upgrading the administration building's electrical system, re-roofing four boys' dormitories, re-painting 14 existing dormitories, classrooms and support facilities, repairing the dining facility, repairing the school bell support structure, constructing a new school sign and constructing 52 bunk beds for use in the dormitories.
The ribbon cutting marks the successful completion of the first U.S. Air Force civic engagement in the region, and culminates nearly a year of joint planning between the U.S. and Papua New Guinea government and engineers.
"We're excited to strengthen an already solid civil military cooperation between our nations and look forward to continuing to learn from one another," said Col. Michael Addison, Pacific Air Forces director for logistics, installations and mission support.
"Seeing everyone come together and work side-by-side to provide these vitally important dormitories has reaffirmed my confidence in our friendship and our ability to work together in the future."
Addison said building the dormitories and renovating the school is a small way to thank Papua New Guinea for decades of friendship and cooperation.
"PACUNITY events like this are a cornerstone of Pacific Air Forces partnership efforts," he said. "By conducting these bilateral humanitarian and civic assistance programs, PACUNITY helps cultivate common bonds, foster good will and improve relations between the United States and Papua New Guinea."
Simon Opa, Togaba Secondary School principal, echoed Addison's sentiments commenting on the unique relationship the countries hold, before going on to thank the U.S. Airmen for a job well done.
"Out of 21 provinces you have selected western highlands. And out of many schools in this province you have selected Togoba Secondary School ... We are lost for words," he said. "You have done what you have done in four weeks; it could have taken us years to achieve this. You have changed the face of the school. We are different from yesterday we are not the same Togoba we are a new Togoba as of today. This is a new era for us and this school and you have opened this new chapter for us.
The event concluded with the ribbon cutting, a sing-sing, the traditional Papua New Guinea tribal singing and dancing, and a bright outlook for the future.
"In the U.S. Air Force we have a saying ... lead the way," said Addison. "It is my hope that our joint construction project under PACUNITY will lead the way to further cooperation between our countries and a peaceful Asia-Pacific region."