CARTAGENA, Colombia (NNS) -- Sailors from Southern Partnership Station (SPS) and members of Colombia's National Navy and Marines spent today scraping and painting a 17-year-old school house in the La Boquilla area of Cartagena to prepare it for classes beginning Monday.
Southern Partnership Station is an annual deployment of various specialty platforms to the U.S. Southern Command area of focus in the Caribbean and Latin America. The mission goal is primarily information sharing with navies, coast guards, and civilian services throughout the region.
The SPS team arrived at the kindergarten through secondary school and were formally greeted by dozens of uniformed school children holding flags and banners. The dust started flying as the teams scraped walls and dusted and swept the floors. Some workers mixed and distributed paint while others prepared the areas to be painted with tape and floor mats.
"This will give the children a place that looks better and is a nicer learning environment," said Lt. Charles Egli. "It's nice to do something that gets me out with the locals. I'm so used to going out in a kind of a tourist capacity. It's a great change to interact and see another part of the city."
The school shaped up rapidly as coats of blue and beige paint cleaned up and colored the walls. Small children handed out cold water and the school administrators plugged in a sound system to play music.
"It definitely brings me back to my childhood and reminds me of how I grew up and the places I lived," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class German Rodriquez, from San Diego. "It makes me really happy to come here and be able to help."
Work wrapped up around 2 p.m. and the school was ready for the next day's classes.
The school rehabilitation is the second of two community relation projects SPS has accomplished on its first visit to Colombia. Earlier in the week SPS delivered over one ton of Project Handclasp medical supplies to a nongovernmental organization that will distribute the materials in La Boquilla.
Project Handclasp is a Navy program that uses cargo space on Navy vessels to transport donated humanitarian goods to foreign ports.
Colombia is the fifth stop for SPS. After Colombia, SPS is scheduled to visit Panama, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Barbados and Jamaica.
The mission is coordinated through U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (NAVSO/ 4th Fleet) with partner nations to meet their specific training requests. As the Naval Component Command of SOUTHCOM, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. Naval Forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Various operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.
Fourth Fleet is the numbered fleet assigned to NAVSO, exercising operational control of assigned forces in the SOUTHCOM area of focus.
For more news from Southern Partnership Stations got to www.navy.mil/local/sps.