LAMU ISLAND, Kenya -- The chance to visit Africa as part of Exercise Edged
Mallet 2004 is not only a rare opportunity but also an electrifying experience for two Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).
Corporals Jeremiah Henry, a recently promoted corporal and electrician by military occupation specialty, and Lydell Jim, a heavy equipment operator by MOS, are the electricians responsible for completing the electrical work for the three buildings of the Lamu Boys’ Secondary School refurbishment project being done here this month.
For the two corporals of MEU Service Support Group-13, the combat service support element of the MEU, the exercise is a chance for them to put their electricians’ skills to good use working on the refurbishment project, even though one is not an electrician for the Marine Corps; and the other, although an electrician by MOS, would not usually be given the responsibility of this project based on his junior rank.
Each building has four classrooms, and each classroom requires removal of old wiring and fixtures and installation of new wiring and fixtures for two fans and four lights. The job also requires installation of a master breaker to control the new fixtures, according to Sgt. Charles Bland, enlisted project supervisor for the Boys’ School refurbishment and a combat engineer with Engineer Detachment, MSSG-13.
Jim, a 26-year-old native of New Mexico, was an electrician for three years prior to joining the Marine Corps. He let the command know about his civilian experience and offered to assist in any projects he could. His past work included residential wiring for a contractor in Arizona, labor that most closely resembles what is being done at the Boys’ School, according to Jim.
“I’m doing physical work using my hands and getting to do what I did before,” said Jim, who is enjoying his first opportunity to use his electrician’s skills since being in the Marine Corps.
The Marines have faced new challenges during the project despite their past experience.
“We use 110 power, they’re on 220,” said Henry, referring to the standard voltage running to the powered fixtures in U.S. construction compared to Kenyan construction. The difference requires that they work with material other than what they’re used to in stateside projects so it will be compatible to what is used throughout the school here.
“I’m learning things from the Kenyans – how they wire things differently – and I’ve had a chance to teach them things to make their job easier also,” said Jim, of the work he’s done with the electricians from the Kenyan Army’s 12th Engineer Battalion who are collaborating with the Marine Engineers on the refurbishment project.
Field wiring for generators and other basic wiring skills are what is taught to electricians in their initial school, according to Henry, a Texas native. His wiring experience was gained during humanitarian projects in the Philippines as part of Exercises Balikatan and Cobra Gold in April 2001.
“Henry’s done a lot of studying on his own,” said Bland. “He hasn’t been to journeymen’s school, but he has acquired the knowledge on his own to be able to successfully complete these types of projects.”
The two Marines agree that the opportunity to participate on this project has been a great professional and personal experience.
“I’ll take everything back and tell my family how it is out here,” said Jim, who followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps when he became a Marine. “Seeing everything, how simple everything is compared to us…they have what they have.”
“It’s exciting just being in Africa,” said Henry, who plans to get out of the
Marine Corps and attend school to study civil engineering. “The work looks good on a resume; but more important, it makes me appreciate what we have in America.
“Knowing we’re doing a good thing for the kids and they’re happy about us being here is the best part.”
For more information about the 13th MEU and the Marines of MSSG-13 visit the MEU website at www.13meu.usmc.mil.