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Airmen enhance learning environment for Papua New Guinea students

Members of the 154th Civil Engineer Squadron partner with day laborers from the local community to cut pieces of wood for a basketball backboard  Sept. 8, 2014, during Pacific Unity 14-8 in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Pacific Unity is a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program conducted in the Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with host nation civil authorities and military service members that build upon previous engagements and exercises, and continue to mature U.S. and Asia-Pacific civil-military interoperability. The Airmen are deployed from the Hawaii Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden)

Members of the 154th Civil Engineer Squadron partner with day laborers from the local community to cut pieces of wood for a basketball backboard Sept. 8, 2014, during Pacific Unity 14-8 in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Pacific Unity is a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program conducted in the Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with host nation civil authorities and military service members that build upon previous engagements and exercises, and continue to mature U.S. and Asia-Pacific civil-military interoperability. The Airmen are deployed from the Hawaii Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden)

MOUNT HAGEN, Papua New Guinea (AFNS) -- A 34-manned team of U.S. Air Force construction craftsmen and support personnel along with Papua New Guinea Defense Forces and local workers have continued make enhancements at Togoba Secondary School in Papua New Guinea during Pacific Unity 14-8 .

Pacific Unity is a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program conducted in the Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with host nation civil authorities and military service members. Pacific Unity 14-8 is the fourth iteration of the operation, with efforts focused on the construction of two new dormitories for female students.

With the dorm project almost being finished, the team turned their attention toward additional functional and cosmetic projects that will enhance the overall condition of the school.

According to Capt. Nhut Dao, the Pacific Unity 14-8 mission commander, the needs of the school were too great not to use the additional time and resources to benefit the institution.

In addition to building the dormitories, which included tear down of the old structure and site preparation, the Pacific Unity team is also upgrading the electrical system in the school's administrative building; painting and renovating the dining hall; adding gravel to the school's entry road; reconstructing the covered walkway; and building new basketball goals for the school's recreation area.

"There are many logistical challenges to working here in the highlands, but so far because of the collaboration of all the organizations and all of the functions that we have here things have been going great," Dao said. "We are on schedule to get everything done before the closing ceremony and all the additional work that we are currently working on will also be complete."

Once complete, the dormitories will enable hundreds of girls from the surrounding communities the opportunity to attend school. The infrastructure improvements will enhance the learning environment for the more than 2,500 students and teachers who use the facilities daily.

"This is a dream come true," said Simon Opa, the Togoba Secondary School principal. "It's something that we have not yet expected and it's something we have yet to come to terms with and the fact that we have two new girls' dormitories is incredible."

Though there are currently two occupied female dormitories on the campus, Opa said the new dorms will not only provide space for additional female students in grades 11-12 to attend the school, but also cut down on the cost and risks associated with traveling to school.

"The number of boarding girls will double," he said. "More girls living on campus will cut down on the number of girls coming as day students, which will go a very long way in helping them. There are a lot of risk involved in traveling and a lot of time. Money for them to pay for their transport every day back and forth is a big problem. Sometimes the rivers flood and they may not be able to cross and the public transport system is not always reliable. It will go a long way for our girls to be living on campus."

Though the primary beneficiaries of Pacific Unity 14-8 will be the new female dorm residents, Opa expressed gratitude on the school's behalf for all of the work being done.

"This is a very unique project and we did not expect this," he said. "I really thank the people of the U.S. and the Airmen here doing the construction; we owe them so much. Out of all the schools in the country, out of all the schools in this province, our school has been selected and our prayers have been answered. It will go a very, very long way so we thank you all."

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