A Marine Expeditionary Unit is tasked to be America’s rapid-response force, protecting U.S. interest abroad and able to plan and conduct combat operations when the nation needs it most. Sometimes, however, Servicemembers are able help other nations when they are in need.
Marines and sailors from the 15th MEU came ashore to Timor-Leste during Exercise Crocodilo 2012 to provide medical and dental aid to Timorese citizens, Oct. 11.
Exercise Crocodilo 2012 is the first exercise the MEU has conducted since the beginning of Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and the MEU’s Western Pacific deployment. Throughout the exercise, forces will work alongside the Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) in various events that include field exercises and community relations activities intended at strengthening the relationship between the US and Timor-Leste. One of the focuses of the exercise is providing humanitarian assistance.
During the exercise the Navy/Marine Corps team is scheduled to visit 10 different locations, where they will provide health screenings and vaccinations, make surgery referrals to local hospitals, provide dental care to include tooth removal, give optometry screenings, prescribe and provided eyeglasses and issue medication and vitamins for minor illnesses or injuries.
“We’re providing access to medical and dental care to remote population on Timo-Leste,” said Lt. Jonathan Fowler, medical planner, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU. “A good percentage of the patients we screened have not seen doctors in years and in some cases their whole lives. Us being here allows us to provide care they would not have received.”
Flying into one remote village, the 15 servicemembers, two doctors and five members of the ministry of health, screened and treated more than 250 patients in a day.
“This location is very remote, enough so that they are unable to receive healthcare,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Ivey, site commander, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “We have the means to do good will. That’s why we came out here, to help. This is something the Marine Corps has done in the past. We want to keep our good relationship with Timor-Leste.”
The MEU is building upon America’s existing relationship with the developing nation in order to strengthen its partnership and lay a foundation for regional security, which the country has not had until recent years.
Apart from caring for the locals, the Marines and sailors learned about the local culture and were able to share and project the image of the United States and its force in readiness, the 15th MEU.
“This is important for the Marine Corps,” said Fowler. “These villages see us and associate the United States and Marine Corps with goodwill. These people will always think of America and Marines as the people who came and helped them.”