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January 20, 2005

Coconut diplomacy

At Meulaboh, Indonesia, an area devasted by the tsunami last month, our Marines are finding common ground with Indonesian soldiers, one coconut at a time. Marine Sgt. Maj. David Bullock with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is instrumental in working with Indonesian Marines to coordinate supply unloading and distribution. Here's an excerpt from an AFP story by Samantha Quigley (she also took the picture above).
At mid-morning, one of the Indonesian servicemembers scaled a palm tree and dropped a few green coconuts. One of his colleagues on the ground looked at a Marine and pointed to one of the coconuts, indicating that the Marine should pick it up.

Before it was all over, Bullock was learning how to hack away the top part of the coconut to get to the milk. With that mission complete, it was time to unload the second landing craft of the day.

When the 35 pallets of supplies - 20 with boxes of rations and 15 with boxes of bottled water - were stacked on the beach, it was time to load those trucks. That's when it became apparent that teamwork not only builds bridges, but also moves dump trucks stuck in the sand.

Members of both militaries pitched in to get the truck back on the road. Once the truck was "unstuck," the two groups gave themselves a round of applause followed by a group picture.

Unfortunately, getting supplies from the beach to the truck was almost as difficult as getting the truck out of the sand. The distance between the two was sizeable. So, instead of risking getting stuck again, a relay line was formed ... until someone complained about being hot and tired.

Then, to the amusement of everyone on the beach, Bullock and Indonesian Capt. Benny Fauzi decided to make a point.

"Hot doesn't bother me," Fauzi yelled and headed for the supplies. Between the two of them, they double-timed three boxes of bottled water to the truck. The awe, mixed with laughter, created a bond as both sides pitched in and finished loading the truck.

The day ended with Bullock and Fauzi in an arm-wrestling match. The winner wasn't really clear and a rematch is imminent.

"What do I get if I win?" Fauzi asked.

To which Bullock replied, "My friendship."

Fauzi accepted with mock disappointment and began negotiating for a uniform. Ultimately, he settled for a T-shirt with Bullock's unit printed on it, but offered one of his uniforms in exchange.

A high-five and a handshake later, Bullock and Fauzi headed their separate ways, vowing to meet at the arm-wrestling chair the next day. Tables are hard to come by.

"He's a good guy," Bullock said as he headed for the helicopter that would take him back to the ship so he could rest up for the rematch.

Note which officer is carrying two cases of water. It's symbolic of our military which customarily does the heavy lifting for the world.

Posted by Deb at January 20, 2005 01:30 AM

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