11th MEU(SOC) Marine uses past experience to help build East Timor future

15 Jun 2007 | Sgt. Eric McLeroy

Showers of sunlight poured in through the windows and doors of the hollow, scarred, stone building. Corporal Jason Driggars knelt near a doorway, oblivious to the blur of green and blue uniforms that swirled around him, moving in and out of the dapple of gray shadows and golden light.At 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group?s community relations project site, his light blue eyes focused intently on his tape measure stretched before him. The work was important to him, but would have a greater impact on the hundreds of children who will pass through the same doors he labored over. Driggars and his fellow Marines of G Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/1 helped re-establish the Dili Community Youth Center here. The MEU(SOC)/BARG team arrived in East Timor April 9-11 to offer humanitarian assistance to a nation still recovering from post-election violence that erupted nearly two years ago. The 25-year-old infantryman was in charge of carpentry and remodeling and felt at home, he said."It?s a good feeling to do that kind of (construction) work here. It?s like being back home - in my own element," the Dothan, Ala. native explained.He gripped his gnarled pencil that seemed more of an extension of his hand than tool for making tick marks and whipped the metallic tape measure into its spooled case with the familiarity of a soldier and his weapon. He was comfortable. The tool?s grip and a lingering scent of sawdust and paint fumes reminded him of his youth."I kind of grew up in (construction)," Driggars said in a relaxed southern drawl. "My grandpa was a general contractor for 40 years, and I worked with him when I was a kid during the summers. When you grow up down there, you have to learn how to do that kind of stuff," he added.An only child, Driggars worked his parent?s 400-acre peanut farm in Southern Alabama, tending to the horses and cattle and carrying on with chores. When something needed repair, he and his stepfather did it themselves. Carpentry skills came in handy then, the same as it did in East Timor, according to Driggars."When we knew we were going to East Timor, everyone who wanted to go and work had to sign a roster," he said. "The roster had people?s names on it and level of experience. From there, we were put on teams - I was in charge of basic carpentry."Driggars, an infantry platoon squad leader, used the community relations project as a chance to hone his own leadership skills. He enjoyed working with his hands, his self-proclaimed cure for homesickness, and wanted to be a teacher much like his grandfather."I take my job as an NCO very seriously," Driggars said. "It?s just like the creed says - to train new Marines. I think that?s the most important part. Even though it wasn?t infantry training, influencing people to accomplish the task is the same whether on patrol or hanging a door."His modest stature seemed elevated and his swagger more profound as Marines and Sailors listened to his instruction. With every task, he walked them through the steps and gave them advice. By the time the project ended, his team worked like confident veterans of the trade unlike their initial timid approach.Driggars was happy to see the others eager to learn the craft and help the local children, he said. Whether the Marines and Sailors felt a sense of accomplishment, didn?t matter to him. He knew the children would enjoy the youth center long after the he left.

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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