Marines and Sailors restore hope to East Timor community

15 Jun 2007 | Sgt. Eric McLeroy

Marines and Sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group took part in humanitarian assistance and community relations projects here April 9-11 in support of East Timor's transition to independence.During their visit, the 11th MEU(SOC)/BARG team took part in five community relations projects including refurbishing two community youth centers and three schoolhouses. Marines from G Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/1 headed one reconstruction project at the Dili Community Youth Center with the help of Sailors from the USS Boxer.When the project began, the walls were defaced with militia propaganda, and the buildings stood as windowless reminders of the violence that occurred here nearly two years ago.The group painted and installed doors, ceiling fans, and electric outlets in two single-story structures. They also set up computer desks, tables and provided sports equipment the last day of the project.United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations provided the construction material, and U.S. companies donated the recreational equipment through the Navy's Handclasp project.The UN involvement is in response to the militia-led bloodshed in East Timor that drove thousands of people from the country after a vote for independence in August 1999. After the violence ceased, the cities were reduced to rubble and the local economy was devastated. East Timor's youth faced an uncertain future without projects to restore communities and establish places where the children could learn."The young people in East Timor were in danger. There wasn't enough employment and they were easy prey for gangs and criminal activity. They didn't have a chance at stability," said Barbara Smith, public relations officer, Dili District Administration Office. "This type of construction was a way to get them the computer and language training they needed."The Marines and Sailors painted the walls white, erasing history's recent marks of violence, and ciphered new life into the buildings."We got a lot more done than I thought we would," said Navy Chief Warrant Officer-2 Darrell Daniels, material control officer, Aircraft Intermediate Level Maintenance Department. "The Navy and Marine Corps team worked well together."Marines and Sailors worked alongside each other, transforming the hollow, yellow drab buildings into a clean, educational center for local kids. The group had help from a team of Navy Seabees, installing wires and electrical outlets to be used for computers. "This was a good group of people. They were willing to work and got a lot done here," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Dooley, 20, Providence, R.I. native, Navy Seabee Detachment. "This is the best and most rewarding kind of work - helping other people."Local kids swarmed the site during the three-day project, eager to help paint, clear brush or watch the servicemembers at work. "We want the people here to take pride in their community and develop a sense of ownership. This benefits the kids and the area," said 1st Lt. Anthony Giardino, executive officer, G Co., BLT 2/1. "If the MEU can do some good somewhere, I think we should."The reconstruction project ended with a brief ceremony where Dili community leaders gave thanks to the Marines and Sailors who worked at the site. Local children gave the Marines who led the project gifts as a token of appreciation. In return, the group from the 11th MEU(SOC)/BARG presented the leaders with a brass plaque to rededicate the building as the Dili Community Youth Center."It's real nice that we helped the people here. It makes me feel like I made a difference in the world," said LCpl. Fred Archmiranda, 26, New Orleans native, 2nd Platoon, G Co. "I didn't think I'd be doing this kind of thing when I joined the Marine Corps, but it's good that I am."

Marine Corps News

Colonel Jim 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