The softer side of a "Warrior"

8 May 2007 |

The hot sun of East Timor beat down on a small group of buildings as Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) concentrated on their tasks at hand. This time it wasn?t a training exercise, but a humanitarian assistance operation recently held over three days--the largest humanitarian assistance project conducted in East Timor in the last two years. Approximately 500 Marines and Sailors from the 11th MEU (SOC) and the USS Belleau Wood Amphibious Ready Group participated in the project that was spread out over eight different sights around the county Nov. 17-19. Two of the units participating included Marines from Lima Company and Amphibious Assault Vehicle Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 11th MEU (SOC), who had the task of refurbishing several buildings that were decaying over the years since their construction. The Marines arrived by helicopters to a small landing pad in an old cattle pasture. Unloading their gear from CH-46E ?Sea Knight? and CH-53E ?Super Stallion? birds, Marines grabbed backpacks and new tools of the trade such as hammers, nails, paintbrushes, brooms, ladders and a whole other gamut of items not normally carried by a company of infantry Marines. With their usual will and determination, there was no doubt they would accomplish the mission at hand--from securing a perimeter to rebuilding a community. After a short hike, passing by small thatch huts, they arrived at the work site. The white concrete buildings sat against the backdrop of rolling hills on one side and the deep blue ocean not more than 200 yards on the other. ?It was pretty sad when we showed up,? said Capt. Matthew Reid, commanding officer, Company L, BLT 3/1, 11th MEU (SOC). ?The buildings were run down. There was graffiti on the walls, holes through the walls, no windows or doors. It was pretty much beaten down.? Before some of the Marines even have time to set down their packs, the site supervisors were already going through the buildings making checklists of what needs to be completed and what it was going to take to get it done. They then began to hand out job assignments, breaking the Marines into two or three teams each responsible for a different building. Without hesitation or question, the Marines picked up paintbrushes, hammers and nails, or whatever they were assigned. They knew their mission was to make someone?s life better through rebuilding an elementary school.?We?re not trained for this type of thing, it?s not in an infantry Marine?s training scope,? Reid said. ?The Marines are here giving 100 percent and getting the mission accomplished with the materials we have.? For hours they worked in the heat and near 100 percent humidity. By the end of the day most of them were covered in as much paint as they were sweat. It was the first time some of the young warriors had ever done construction work. ?I painted some, did some roofing and some other touch-up work,? said Cpl. Jeremy Wilton, mortarman, Weapons Platoon, BLT 3/1, 11th MEU (SOC). ?It gives them a better classroom to learn in. I enjoyed helping, it?s a little different. We don?t do this sort of thing that often, and it?s nice knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of these children.? For three days, these Marines put in the work it took to get the job done and give the children of East Timor a better learning environment. ?All the walls were reconstructed. We poured concrete, painted and put security screens in windows,? Reid said. ?We had to custom fit each door because the door frames were crooked, so each door was its own masterpiece. It is a dramatic change from what it was when we first got here.? After making final touch-ups to the buildings before cleaning up the site and packing up their gear, the Marines were proud. Looking back at the buildings--the same buildings set against the backdrop of mountains and ocean?-the structures had a new, revived look. ?As a MEU, we train to be able to conduct missions along the spectrum of conflict-?from combat operations to humanitarian assistance,? said Col. Anthony Haslam, commanding officer, 11th MEU (SOC). ?The Marines and Sailors did an outstanding job and completed their projects with a level of detail well beyond all expectations. I believe it was a rewarding experience for all the Marines and Sailors involved.? After the project was done, the Warriors of Company L and AAV Platoon returned to the landing pad to board helicopters flying back to their ship. After three days of hard work, they left this small community with a some leftover materials to help them continue the restoration process and a improved schoolhouse for the children of Aidabaleten.

Marine Corps News

Colonel James W. Lively
Commanding Officer

Colonel Lively is a native of Dallas, Texas. He received his commission in 1996 through the Platoon Leaders Course program after graduating from Texas A&M University with a BA in Psychology.

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Lieutenant Col. Le E. Nolan
Executive Officer

Lieutenant Colonel Nolan is a 2001 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his commission through Officer Candidate Class 180. After completing flight training as a CH-53E pilot, he reported to HMH-361 in MCAS Miramar.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit