NMCB 3, Timor President Join Forces to Enhance Education

By SW3 Calvin Johnson and MC1 Chris Fahey, NMCB 3

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CM3 Nathan Pogorzeslki, NMCB 3’s Timor-Leste Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD), reads to students from the Escola Basiki Similesu Primary School, Jan. 15. The students received more than 600 children’s books presented to the school by Timor-Leste President Taur Matan Ruak and Seabees from Pogorzeslki’s battalion. Photo by SW3 Calvin Johnson

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 the presentation, Ruak 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 CE3 Chioke Richards. “It was inspiring.”

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Timor-Leste President Taur Matan Ruak (center) receives a traditional meal before he and Seabees from NMCB 3’s Timor-Leste CCAD present more than 600 books to the Escola Basiki Similesu Primary School, Jan. 15. Photo by SW3 Calvin Johnson

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 CM3 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, Pa., area. His hometown area took action.

Guida’s mother, Dee,  a faculty advisor for a Kiwanis International youth organization called “K-Kids” at the district’s elementary school in Enola, Pa., 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.

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Fourth grade students from an elementary school in Enola, Pa., prepare books to send to children in Timor-Leste. In coordination with “K-Kids,” a Kiwanis International youth organization, the children collected more than 2,000 books for the East Timor children that were delivered by Seabees assigned to NMCB 3’s Timor-Leste CCAD. Courtesy photo by Dee Guida

“I thought it would be great to not only give books to children who would get so much joy out of having something to read in their schools,” Dee Guida said,” but also connect students in my hometown with the children of Timor-Leste and learn what their schools are like and how they live.

In total, the K-Kids collected and shipped more than 2,000 children’s books to Timor-Leste; the Seabees raised money to cover all shipping costs.

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Students from Escola Basiki Similesu Primary School enjoy more than 600 children’s books presented to the school by Timor-Leste President Taur Matan Ruak and NMCB 3 Seabees. Photo by SW3 Calvin Johnson

By linking the two communities of young students – both from America and Timor-Leste – Lt. j.g. 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.

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Students from Escola Basiki Similesu Primary School receive more than 600 children’s books presented by Timor-Leste President Taur Matan Ruak and Seabees from NMCB 3. U.S. Navy photo

“The Seabees’ invaluable and innumerable contributions to Timor-Leste go above and beyond the very important construction work they do,” said Scott Ticknor, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires to Timor-Leste. “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.

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