BARGONI, Kenya -- Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Combat Logistics Battalion 26 worked alongside personnel from the Kenyan Army 10th Engineers to refurbish a primary school, here, March 3 - 10.
The CLB-26 Marines were in Kenya supporting Exercise Edged Mallet '07, which, in addition to the school project, included bilateral training between elements of the 26th MEU, Bataan Strike Group, and their counterparts in the Kenyan army and navy.
The school improvement project was part of a community relations program that allows the United States to maintain positive relationships with the African nation, according to 1st Lt. D'Arcy L. Spiese, officer in charge of CLB-26's engineer detachment.
"Doing bilateral training [with the Kenyan military] improves the military relationship," she said, "but the MEU is an ambassador of the U.S., and a big part of our mission is to interact with the locals."
The U.S. and Kenyan military engineers renovated the school buildings by replacing metal roofing and ceiling tiles, patching and painting the exteriors walls, and installing window frames and screens. Additionally, they fixed deteriorating concrete walkways around the school buildings and installed a fence to around the school compound.
Spiese said they installed the fence to secure the school's perimeter from goats that had become a problem by interrupting classes and eating the students' vegetable gardens.
The school was a flurry of activity as Kenyan soldiers and Marines worked from sunup to sundown to accomplish the mission of providing a clean, safe environment for the 215 pupils, who range from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Bernard Chegge, a teacher at the school, said he and the children were very excited to use the improved school.
"We appreciate the United States setting up the school," he said. "This will benefit the whole area of Bargoni and not just the school."
The students and faculty of the school also enjoyed the opportunity to meet the Marines and learn about them.
"This is very nice," Chegge said. "I have enjoyed making new friends."
The people of Bargoni were not the only ones to benefit from the project; Spiese said the Marines enjoyed the chance to help out too.
"The guys are having a blast out here," Spiese said. "They are getting a chance to put their military occupational specialty to use for the greater good."
The project completion was marked with a rededication ceremony on the school grounds March 11. In attendance were Navy Capt. Donna M. Looney, commodore, Bataan Strike Group; Col. Gregg A. Sturdevant, commanding officer, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit; Kenyan Army Lt. Col. Tom Chepkuto, commanding officer, 15th Rifle Battalion; and Kenyan Army Maj. Fred Muchera, commanding officer, 10th Engineer Battalion.
The Bergoni Primary School choir sang to the attendees, and Marines from CLB-26 presented the school with a plaque commemorating the staff and faculty and thanking them for their hospitality over the duration of the project. CLB-26 also presented a plaque to their engineer counterparts with the Kenyan army, commending them for their hard work and fellowship during the project.
Following the ceremony, the Marines and sailors of the MEU returned to their base camp to begin preparing for the close of Exercise Edged Mallet '07 and their return to the ships of the Bataan Strike Group.
The 26th MEU is comprised of the Command Element; the Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, the Logistics Combat Element, CLB-26; and the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced).
The 26th MEU, along with the ships of the Bataan Strike Group, USS Bataan (LHD-5), USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), USS Shreveport (LPD-12), USS Nitze (DDG-94), USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), USS Underwood (FFG-36) and USS Scranton (SSN-756), deployed in early January on a routine, scheduled deployment.
For more information, news, and video, please visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.