DARWIN, Northern Territory, Australia – Marine Rotational Force – Darwin met with staff members of a local primary school to plan for MRF-D’s continued mentorship program with the students of Gray Primary School, March 28.
MRF-D Marines will lead a similar program in three to five other schools throughout the Northern Territory while they are on break from conducting bilateral training with the Australian Defence Force and partnered nations in the region.
Selected Marines from the rotation will mirror the community relations program from the previous year, expanding upon its success by consistently presenting themselves as role models for the children and community at large.
Sue Beynon, the principal of Gray Primary School, has a garden project planned for the Marine mentors in addition to playing sports with the children and teaching them how to read.
“We found that it was the relationships they built with the students that were really valuable,” Beynon said. “The students always looked forward to the Marines coming, because it was when they had some one-on-one time with a really positive male role-model.”
Attendance, respect and goal-setting are three areas Gray Primary School feels the children could really improve upon -- three areas Marines excel in, Beynon said.
“Often the children would ask questions about how to become a Marine and what they had to do,” she said. “That gave kids incentive to really want to achieve more at school, so for us it was a hugely valuable experience.”
Two children who participated with the Marines in the previous year, now in grade six, were sitting in Beynon’s office when they heard the Marines are now coming back.
“I would really like to see them back,” Hailee Espie-Baker said. “I thought everything was fun, and they were really cool.”
According to Beynon, the Marines had a noticeable effect on the second student in her office, Andrew Simoes, who was regularly sent to her office for misbehavior the previous year. Now Andrew is very respectful, out of her office and in great attendance. He would like to teach the Marines Australian Rules Football this year since they taught him baseball last year.
“We would like to know about them a lot,” Andrew said. “I see them as family members.”
Having a specific group of Marines dedicated to the selected schools as faces the children can count on and recognize is one of the major goals of MRF-D this rotation.
“One of the things we really appreciate here is just the consistency of the guys coming out and the respectful behavior; nothing’s too much trouble for them,” Beynon said. “They really want to impart something in the students and that’s something I really appreciate -- they’re not just here doing a job.”
Although the Marines are on orders to Australia, many of the Marine mentors come from homes similar to the children they are positively influencing, a tangible reminder of their past and how far they’ve come.
“You only have to see the smiles on the Marines’ faces to realize they are enjoying the experience as well,” Beynon said. “And some of the kids have probably told them their story so they know that they have made a difference in that child’s life.”
As of early April, MRF-D will be at full capacity, wasting no time to begin the mission at hand, all alongside the ADF and Darwin community for the extent of the Dry Season.