By Cpl. Luke Hoogendam , Marine Corps Forces South
Primary schools provide children the opportunity to learn, mature and build a foundation for a successful life. Renovating and restoring school buildings can enhance those opportunities and help children take pride in their school, especially if they take part in the work.
That’s exactly what happened when U.S. Marines assisted with renovating the Carenage Boys Government Primary School in Carenage, Trinidad and Tobago, June 16, 2017, during Phase II of Exercise Tradewinds 2017.
Tradewinds, an annual exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, is designed to increase the interoperability of the 20 nations involved and their ability to counter transnational organized crime and terrorism, and conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Community service projects like the restoration at Carenage have become a staple of Tradewinds, providing military members from the participating countries a chance to build strong relationships with each other and the people they serve.
“Participating in these community relation events highlights the partnership that we have between us and Trinidad and Tobago,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Brian Pierson, a civil affairs officer with 4th Civil Affairs Group. “We want the community to know that the Marine Corps is concerned and willing to help out by fixing their schools, which is something that is near and dear to them.”
The U.S. Marines were not alone during the renovation. U.S. Coast Guardsmen as well as service members from Mexico, British, Canadian, Jamaican, Trinidad and Tobago, and other partner nation service members were all chipping paint and picking weeds side by side.
“I want the Marines to understand that there is more to the military than just fighting wars,” said Pierson. “It’s about understanding the community, culture and showing the kids that there are good people out there.”
Some of the renovations include landscaping flower beds, removing foliage and repainting walls and flagpoles.
“We feel so lucky that Carenage Boys Government Primary School was selected during this exercise to receive help in revitalizing the facility,” said Lance Motley, the dean of students at the school. “The teachers and I are tremendously grateful that this exercise has been bestowed upon our school and we are looking forward to the finished product.”