Seabees Build Buddy Bench and Friendships at Chief Brodie Memorial Elementary School

By Ensign Frances R. Hunter / NMCB 11 Public Affairs

TAMUNING, Guam. – Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 Detachment Guam were honored at the unveiling ceremony for a new Buddy Bench at Chief Brodie Memorial Elementary School (CBMES) in Tamuning, Guam on February 17th, 2015.

Six Seabees donated the bench and helped students decorate it as part of the Buddy Bench project, an international program dedicated to promoting new friendships on school playgrounds.150213-N-HC897-031

A “Buddy Bench” is a designated bench on a school playground where children sit to show they would like someone to play with. Rebecca Klemm, the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) teacher at CBMES, headed up the project with her fifth grade students.

“This is such a wonderful program to eliminate loneliness in the schools,” said Mrs. Klemm. “If you’re feeling sad or lonely, you sit on the bench, and if somebody sees you sitting on the bench, they can ask you to play.”

NMCB-11 Seabees rehabilitated a concrete bench and transported it to the school. The fifth grade GATE class worked with the Seabees to decorate the bench, adding colorful lettering, handprints and insignias.

Nancy Diaz, principal of CBMES, immediately reached out to deployed Seabees for assistance when Mrs. Klemm proposed the project. “I thought of the Seabees right away, because they have always been here to contribute,” said Mrs. Diaz. “They want to do good for the school.”

CBMES and the Seabees have had a close relationship since 1960, when Seabees constructed the school under the leadership of Builder Chief Clifford Brodie. Tragically, Chief Brodie passed away from a heart attack before project completion. The school was dedicated in his honor on October 29th, 1960.

Although decades have passed, the Seabees and CBMES maintain ties. Several Seabees at the ceremony remembered working at the school on previous deployments. “I was there in 2003,” recalled Construction Electrician Chief Buddy Parsons, who led the volunteer group. “We did three days of painting and had a big fiesta… I see a lot of future projects there, to help the school but also to instil volunteerism in our junior troops, encouraging them to give back to the local community.”150213-N-HC897-072

The Buddy Bench program came to the United States in February 2013, when a second grade student named Christian Bucks proposed a bench at Roundtown Elementary School in Pennsylvania. Today, Buddy Benches promote friendship at schools on six continents. CBMES is the first school to join the movement in Guam. The success of this bench has inspired students at nearby St. John’s School, where high school students are planning a “Buddy Table.”

NMCB-11 is a Seabee battalion specializing in contingency construction, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance. The battalion’s homeport is in Gulfport, Miss. NMCB-11 Detachment Guam is forward deployed to Camp Covington, Naval Base Guam, to provide a contingency construction force ready to mount out in support of operations ranging from disaster relief to major combat operations throughout the Pacific.150213-N-HC897-079

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