News: NMCB 3, Timor president enhance education, effect positive change
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Fahey
DILI, East Timor - Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3’s Timor-Leste Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) joined the country’s president to deliver 600 children’s books to Timorese students Jan. 15.
Seabees joined President Taur Matan Ruak at the Escola Basiki Similesu Primary School in the mountainous jungle village of Gleno as he presented the books to the school’s director on behalf of the Seabee-Timor team.
Following, he spoke to the Seabees about his time in the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor Leste (F-FDTL) and shared stories about his combat experiences.
“The president told us that he spent decades fighting in the jungle, leaving his home as a young man and not returning until he was in his forties,” said Construction Electrician 3rd Class Chioke Richards. “It was inspiring.”
After enjoying a community-organized reception that included a traditional meal, dancing, and singing, Seabees went to work building a bookcase and reading the books with the students.
“The children really got a kick out of some of the pop-up books and pictures in the stories,” said Construction Mechanic 3rdClass Nathan Pogorzelski. “We would read the words slowly and the students would repeat what we were saying.”
There is a great urgency for young people to learn English in Timor-Leste. Understanding this need, NMCB 3’s Timor-Leste CCAD Liaison Officer Lt. J.g. Mark Guida decided to voice the concern to his hometown in the East Pennsboro, Penn., area who took the task to action.
Guida’s mother, Dee Guida, who is a faculty adviser of a Kiwanis International youth organization called “K-Kids” at the district’s elementary school in Enola, Penn., asked the children if they would like to help. The K-Kids organized a month-long book drive throughout November 2013, spreading the word across the school.
“I thought it would be great to not only give books to children that would get so much joy out of having something to read in their schools but also connect students in my hometown with the children of Timor-Leste and learn what their schools are like and how they live.”
Total, the K-Kids collected and shipped more than 2,000 children’s books to Timor-Leste, while the Seabees raised money to cover all shipping costs.
By linking the two communities of young students – both from America and Timor-Leste – Guida forged the same bond of friendship already felt in force between the Seabees and Timor-Leste Defense Force as they work together to perform humanitarian construction projects across the island.
“The Seabees’ invaluable and innumerable contributions to Timor-Leste go above and beyond the very important construction work they do,” said The U.S. Embassy to Timor-Leste’s Charge d’Affaires Scott Ticknor. “They are ambassadors to the local communities, and U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3’s interest in promoting education and dedication to bringing these materials to the community is priceless.”
NMCB 3 is a vital component of the U.S. Maritime Strategy, providing details deployed to Okinawa, Atsugi and Yokosuka, Japan; Chinhae, Republic of Korea; China Lake and San Clemente Island, Calif; Timor-Leste, Tonga, Cambodia and the Republic of the Philippines.
Each operate independently and are capable of providing disaster preparation and recovery support, humanitarian assistance, and combat operations support, while the U.S. rebalances forces in the Pacific.