ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TINDAL, Australia -- As part of Exercise Southern Frontier 2014, service members traveled to the Beswick Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory of Australia to assist in a community relations event, June 20.
Exercise SF14 is being conducted in order to develop greater interoperability and a seamless response to regional crises. Greater collaboration between partner militaries encourages regional peace, stability and prosperity.
The main focus of the comrel is to help local Aboriginals build a new recreational center, with a secondary focus on cleaning the Wugullarr primary school.
“We want the local children to have a safe place to hang out, play and learn” said Navy Lt. j.g. Grant Sutphin, a chaplain attached to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242. “Those are the main reasons we are here today, to help the community.”
Approximately 20 Marines and sailors volunteered weekend to build and strengthen their relationships with the Beswick community.
As part of the comrel, service members spent three days and two nights in the community, power cleaning, welding, and clearing debris near and around the school and recreational center.
“It’s not something you do every day,” said Lance Cpl. Luis Alvarado, a maintenance administrator with VMFA(AW)-242. “You get an immense feeling of satisfaction from helping improve a community, and having young kids come and see what you are doing for them.”
Alvarado said he would rather work tirelessly during his weekend and come away with a sense of pride from his hard work verses sitting in his room and accomplishing little to nothing.
“I would encourage everyone to take part in events like this,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Dakotah Williams, a religious program specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171. “Not just for the experience of helping someone out, but also to see and interact with a different culture that is happy to open its door to us and lets us experience their culture with them.”
In support of the event, Lt. Col. Shawn Basco, VMFA(AW)-242 commanding officer, and Sgt. Major Jason Simmons, VMFA(AW)-242 sergeant major, visited the Marines and sailors to oversee their progress and thank them for their unselfishness and dedication to a cause.
“There is something about having a little boy come up to you ask, ‘what you are doing?’” said Lance Cpl. Connor Kealy, an airframe mechanic with VMFA(AW)-242. “And telling him ‘I’m just cleaning,’ then having him look back at you and say ‘thank you.’ It’s something you almost never experience. It makes all the hard work worth it in the end.”