Photo Information

Petty Officer 1st Class Juan Bejarano, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s religious programs specialist, spreads gravel at the entrance of Mission San Antonio de Padua during a clean up project here March 27. Thirty-four Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit volunteered more than 325 hours to beautify the grounds of the mission, the third-oldest in the state. The MEU Marines and sailors volunteered everyday March 26 – April 6.

Photo by Sgt. Scott M. Biscuiti

Beautification becomes part of Marine mission

6 Apr 2009 | Cpl. Shawn M. Spitler 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit beautified the grounds of Mission San Antonio de Padua March 26 - April 6.

Thirty-four Marines and sailors volunteered, many on a daily basis, and contributed more than 325 hours to give the mission back its historic appearance.

“The Marines have definitely set the bar high,” said Joan Steele, the mission’s general manager.

The mission, founded July 14, 1771, is the third-oldest in California and the only one not impacted by developing cities – the nearest being King City, 29 miles away.

Tasks accomplished by the Marines included cleaning and rearranging the interior of the church, landscaping the grounds, and assisting with the preparation and cleanup of the mission’s second annual Mission Days Festival. Marines were careful not to disturb the ruins.

“They’re a godsend,” Steele said. As she looked around at the sunlit grounds where the Marines had helped to landscape she remarked, “They look terrific.”

The Marines were at Fort Hunter Liggett for training leading up to their deployment later this year. The mission, located within the Army base, was a perfect volunteer opportunity for the Marines, said Petty Officer 1st Class Juan Bejarano, the MEU’s religious programs specialist. “We’re going to be doing this overseas in other countries, so why not do the same thing in our own country,” he said.

The timing couldn’t be better, said Bejarano. The mission’s second annual Mission Days Festival came at the tail end of the training. On April 4 the Marines work was on display for more than 1,000 visitors.

“It felt good to give back to the community,” said Cpl. Michael Smyth, a volunteer from the MEU’s command element. “I was honored.”

The Marines volunteered for many of the tasks at the festival including parking lot duties and serving food. Smyth and Pfc. Darrin Workman, another volunteer, helped to serve 350 pounds of steak, 50 pounds of beans, 50 pounds of rice, and 1,000 tortillas.

The work the Marines accomplished not only made the mission grounds more beautiful, but safer. Removing the overgrown brush has reduced the risk of fire and made identifying snakes and other wildlife easy, said Robert Hoover, an archaeologist who held a six-week college course at the mission every year from 1976 to 2004.

The contribution of the Marines has made the task of learning basic archaeology easier because it’s not as hard to see the small things, Hoover said. He then looked around and remarked, “This place has never looked better.”

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.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
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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.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarr 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.

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