Marines and Sailors restore hope to East Timor community

15 Jun 2007 | Sgt. Eric McLeroy 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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 Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

Read Biography

Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

Read Biography

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.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Read Biography