MAUBARA, Timor Leste --
More than 300 Timor Leste students have classrooms free of leaks thanks to Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Members of Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th MEU, removed the thatch and bamboo roof and walls from a dilapidated building, installed metal roofing and siding, and gave it all a fresh coat of paint during an engineering project that started Oct. 15.
“The principle said that the roof would constantly leak on the kids and their books,” said 1st Lt. Nikolajs Berzins, a combat engineer with CLB-11. “We replaced the roof, but thought let’s do the walls too.”
Members of the Timor Leste military assisted the Marines by providing masonry and other handy work.
“They are the best guys ever,” said Sgt. Scott Shoptaw, a combat engineer and Cabot, Ark. native. “They are very ingenuous. Every time we didn’t have a tool for something, they found a way to make it work.”
With only two engineers at the site, the bulk of the Marines formed a hodgepodge of military specialties including electricians, heavy equipment operators and motor transport personnel.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Cpl. Brian Nakoneczny, a bulk fuel specialist, from Livonia, Mich. “It’s nice to give them something we have.”
The majority of the battalion’s engineers are in Indonesia working on similar engineering projects.
When the students return to the school in November, they will have more than a leak-free roof. The Marines pooled what money they had and bought toys to surprise the children.
“It feels good to give so much to someone that has so little,” said Lance Cpl. Frankie Mansera Jr., a bulk fuel specialist with CLB-11 and Nipomo, Calif. native. “We’re leaving something better than when we found it.”
The 11th MEU, deployed with the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, has been in Southeast Asia since Oct. 14 as part of Marine Exercise 2009. The exercise, hosted by U.S. Pacific Command, is focused on promoting theater security cooperation through civic action projects and military interaction.