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04-22-04, 06:52 AM
Creole-speaking Marine finds new role in Haiti


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - (KRT) - Growing up on Miami's streets, James J. Beauvais never thought about teaching for a living. But that changed in February when the U.S. Marines sent him to Haiti.

"I grew up speaking Creole at home but I never thought I would be teaching it to anyone," says Beauvais, stationed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who volunteered to teach Creole to other Marines sent to Haiti after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the nation.

"Open the door. We are not here to hurt you. Do you speak English?" says Beauvais, in a booming voice, as a group of about 60 soldiers sits on concrete bleachers, taking notes and practicing the Creole phrases that could save their lives.

The language classes are part of Beauvais' new life as member of an international military force that arrived in February after Aristide fled under pressure from rebel leaders and anti-government opposition groups.

About 2,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed alongside French, Canadian and Chilean troops. They are slated to remain until June 1 when the United Nations is expected to send in peacekeeping forces.

But for Beauvais, 26, this mission holds a special significance: It is his first trip back to the place where he was born.

"I never thought to come back before this. My parents told me stories about how poor it was, how things were so difficult but until I got here I had no idea (of) the level of poverty," he says, standing in a former cigarette factory's soccer field that now doubles as his makeshift classroom.

Beauvais is among the 20 Haitian-Americans serving in this Caribbean nation of 8 million. For some, it is a chance to discover a place that only existed as a blurry childhood memory.

"I really don't remember very much about the place. It is almost like going to Japan in that I really didn't know anything about either one," he says.

In 1983, when he was 5, Beauvais and his mother moved from Port-au-Prince to Miami to join his father. His family, including two brothers, a sister and grandmother, still live in South Florida.

The family spoke Creole at home and even though Beauvais often spoke English, his close relationship to his grandmother helped him remain fluent. "I guess I never realized how much I maintained my Creole," he says.

A radio operator, Beauvais joined the military six years ago. Now his special language skills have changed his military role in Haiti. In addition to teaching biweekly Creole classes, he recently joined a unit sent into one of the capital city's most dangerous slums to conduct a disarmament sweep.

"My job was to go in front of the raid and tell those inside to come outside," he says. "I've never done anything like that but I was attached to the unit because of my language skills."

So far, he has only assisted in one such operation. The raid took place last month at a house in Cite Soleil, a poor neighborhood that is among the most heavily armed in Port-au-Prince.

"I told the people inside the house they had a five-minute grace period to come out. If they had any children they should send them out. Then I told them the grace period was up and we were coming inside," he says.

The raid turned up little and while no one was hurt it was a tense time for Beauvais. Such sweeps are rare for Marines, who are caught between their role as peacekeepers and locals' demands that they disarm thugs and gangs, some of whom are Aristide loyalists. The sweeps, and other actions, have turned up only about 100 weapons, authorities say.

U.S. officials insist their role in disarming Haitians is limited to confiscating illegal weapons and acting on intelligence to locate weapon caches and assisting Haiti's National Police.

While Haiti produces no guns, many residents are heavily armed, some with antique weapons, others with modern automatic rifles used during the most recent outbreak of violence and death.

Beauvais says many Haitians are surprised when they hear him speak Creole. "For the most part they smile and says nice things," he says, downplaying the gunfire and anger some soldiers faced when they arrived last month.

His students joke that Beauvais is a strict teacher.

"He's good but some of the phrases are tough," says Sgt. Liborio Rivera, 29, of New York City. "The one that is really tough to pronounce is: `We are not here to hurt you.' "

Beauvais says some soldiers come to him after class for a little extra help while others are eager to learn additional phrases such as "You are beautiful?" or "How much is that?"

Time here has changed this Haitian-American, who says it has awakened a desire to know a part of himself he had nearly written off.

"Believe it or not, I never had any interest in coming to Haiti," says Beauvais, walking back to his open-air classroom for another round of lessons. "My parents told me how poor it was. But now, after stepping foot on the island, it has changed my perspective. I want to come back and see my roots."


© 2004 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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04-22-04, 06:54 AM
Marines try to disarm gangs with soccer

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, April 20, 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Thugs and warriors put down their weapons and battled it out on the soccer field Saturday under an initiative U.S. Marines anticipate will help in disarming gang members who terrorize local residents and take potshots at patrolling Marines.

Marines of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, launched the first of what is hoped will be a series of tournaments to bring together the three factions of tension in the Caribbean nation’s capital — the U.S. Marines, the Haitian National Policeand the gang members.

But duking it out in a friendly, albeit highly competitive, soccer game with the gang members should not be misinterpreted as lending credence and importance to the gangs’ status, officials said.

“We’re trying for disarmament through cooperation,” said Lt. Zeb Beasley, India Company’s executive officer. “By entering into the spirit of cooperation, we’re not treating them like local thugs, but we’re obviously keeping close tabs on their activities. We’re developing that fragile peace, and maintaining that peace that puts an end, or stops temporarily, the bloodshed and allows us to do civil action things,” such as distributing much-needed drinking water and improving medical facilities and schools, Beasley said.

“We’ve proved over past few weeks that cooperation builds peace,” Beasley said.

The gangs survive on extortion through intimidation, protecting and providing goods and services to those who can afford to pay up, said Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Rosenfeld, top enlisted man of the Marine Air Ground Task Force 8, or MAGTF, in Haiti. “They have no political ambition,” Lawrence said. “Just money.”

“We’re not trying to prop up the gangs,” he said. “The biggest thing is that we trust each other to work together to solve the problems.”

The shattered Haitian government is relying on the U.S.-led multinational task force, which includes Canada, France and Chile, to lay the foundation to rebuild the police force, which for the most part is mocked or feared by the Haitian people.

“There’s a distrust of the police who have been brutal in the past,” Lawrence said.

On Saturday, the Haitian police didn’t show up for the soccer match.

Their absence from Saturday’s game, which took place in the seaside slum of Cite Soleil, one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the capital, didn’t bode well for turning around that reputation, said a disappointed Col. Mark Gurganus, MAGTF-8 commander.

“It’s a shame the police didn’t decide to show up to play, too,” Gurganus said. “But one day at time.”

Military officials are working closely with Chief of Police Leon Charles to create a legitimate police force, one that is recruiting its members from the male population of 18- to 30-year-olds.

Getting guns off the streets to bring security to Haiti is the main goal of the U.S.-led task force since the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who fled Feb. 29. Securing the country clears the way for a U.N. peacekeeping force, to be led by Brazil, to take over at the beginning of June.

The publicly visible cooperation between the Marines and the gang leaders doesn’t mean the military force is ignoring the gangs’ criminal activity, Rosenfeld said. “Any warrants out for them will be enforced,” he said.

Marines can detain any wanted member spotted during patrols, for example, but the arresting authority is left up to the local police in an effort to bring them credibility and self-sustaining law enforcement powers.

“You don’t want to make it look like we’re running the country,” Rosenfeld said.

For the most part, Saturday’s game went off without a hitch, though it brought a bit of a disappointment to the participating Marines, who lost 4 to 1. Each goal made by the Haitian players spurred loud cheers of jubilation from the several thousand spectators — children and adults — who lined the soccer field.

“This shows the community we’re interested in them, and also lets them forget their troubles for a while,” Rosenfeld said.



04-22-04, 06:55 AM
Sheparding faith on the frontlines
Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps
Story Identification Number: 2004420163444
Story by Staff Sgt. Timothy S. Edwards

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (April 20, 2004) -- A slight breeze rustles through the overhanging leaves and branches of a mango tree as the quiet hum of a distant generator permeates the otherwise silent morning.
Beneath these peaceful bows, a small group of men from a mixture of military services come together to share in a common calling.
As all but one of these men sit on a mixture of makeshift benches, folding chairs and sandbags, a bird dips down gliding below the tree’s canopy as if giving its blessing, then soars off.
Still standing, one of the service members addresses the gathering, “I am Lieutenant Clarke, the Regimental Chaplain.”
Navy Lt. Randall S. Clarke is the lead in the Marine Air Ground Task Force’s Religious Ministries Team here providing for the religious needs of service members with the Multinational Interim Force-Haiti (MIFH) deployed in support of Operation Secure Tomorrow.
“Being a Southern Baptist Minister, I am specifically here to take care of the needs of the Southern Baptists and Protestants in general,” Clarke stated. “But I am also here to facilitate the needs of those of other faiths as well.”
According to the Odessa, Texas native, he does this by providing access to chaplains of the other faiths by either locating a chaplain within the deployed members of MAGTF-8, locating a chaplain within the MIFH, or by providing lay leaders for those faiths that have no chaplain representation.
“I am a firm believer in the lay leader program,” he explained. “Lay leaders are the eyes and ears of the chaplain. They can identify needs and problems within the members of their faith and address them to the chaplain.”
Lay leaders are service members who have stepped forward to represent a particular faith group. Such service members in the Catholic faith are trained by priests and can handle the sacred host and provide services. Protestant lay leaders are trained by chaplains and can provide services, except for communion, when a chaplain isn’t available.
A good lay leader is the chaplain’s left hand, but his right hand is his Religious Program Specialist (RP). The RP is a sailor specifically trained to support the chaplain.
They do this by helping the chaplain rig and set up for services, take care of administrative matters and provide for the chaplain’s personal safety.
“The RP is a vital and irreplaceable part of the Religious Ministry Team,” Clarke said.
“Chaplain’s are people of God,” he continued, “but we are not God. We cannot read minds, and we can’t be everywhere at once.”
A good RP and lay leader can greatly enhance the ministry provided to service members.
“They help the chaplain to better understand the needs in the command and to provide for them and address them with the command,” Clarke explained.
“They help us take care of problems at the lowest level,” he said. “Most of the time there is just the need of a friendly ear to listen.”
First, the setting is different. Most often, a church is not available to conduct services when a unit is deployed, so location of the Easter Sunday Service under a tree is not uncommon.
Second, these services are more like devotion, according to Clarke.
“Field services are very simple, it is more like a devotion with one thought to ponder,” he explained. “You want to find one point to leave with the service members for them to ponder on through the week.”
According to Clarke, services aren’t conducted to build “brownie points” with God. “It is to support and encourage each other in their faith.
“Services helps remind us that faith isn’t just one day a week, it is everyday,” he continued. “It reminds us that we have to stand up for what we know is right regardless of whether it is popular.”
According to Spc. Raheem R. Terry, field services help to keep the morale high and uplift service members.
“We are away from our families out here,” the Mounds, Ill. native explained. “By attending these services and staying close to God, we also stay close to our families in our heart.”
To many of the service members attending these services, the location and setting is of little concern.
“Everywhere you go you have God inside of you,” Terry stated. “You don’t need a church to practice your faith, just God in your heart.”
Another unique aspect of these services is the interaction with foreign service members with the Multinational Interim Force – Haiti. The service members deployed here are able to attend service with and receive ministry from members of these forces.
“What this does is allow them to see that God and the Bible transcends race as well as language,” Clarke said. “It allows them to see that it goes beyond political views.
“It also shows them that if one of our service members is hurt, a chaplain of one of the forces will be there to provide for their religious needs,” he continued. “If one of the other members of the (Multinational Interim Force – Haiti) was in need, I would be there to provide pastoral services, regardless of language.”
Ultimately, the religious ministry team is here to provide guidance and set an example in how to live life.
“I am here to teach and to set the example by the way I live,” Clarke explained. “I am not a good chaplain or pastor if I am not setting the example for those I minister to.”
As the morning service came to a close with the service members’ voices raised in song, the bird once again dips down beneath the tree’s bows then soars off into the distance as the last voice fades.
As if a whisper on the wind, “Amen.”



04-22-04, 06:19 PM
Marines in Haiti alter duties to fit the situation

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, April 22, 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — It wasn’t until Cpl. Jeremy Lewis got to Haiti that the mortarman of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines learned the art of three- and four-hour foot patrols.

But he learned quickly.

“Things kind of clicked and everyone got the hang of it really fast,” said the 21-year-old squad leader from Hammond, Wis.

With no call in Haiti to drop their 81 mm mortar rounds or illuminate the night sky for patrolling ground troops, the Marines of Weapons Company and the various Weapons Platoons attached to the three deployed companies of the 3-8 instead make up another line company at the commander’s disposal. They patrol city streets of Port-au-Prince in Humvees to look for bandits and weapons caches.

“Here, we’re just another line company on wheels, doing vehicular and foot patrols,” Lewis said. They’ve also trained to augment the Quick Reaction Forces, those who called to respond at a moment’s notice to incidents such as rioting or attacks.

Marines of both platoons of Weapons Company, the 81s and Combined Anti-Armor Team, or CAAT, have set aside their big guns, but keep them in country in case the need arises.

They’re living the Marine Corps ethos: Every Marine is first and foremost a rifleman, said Cpl. Matthew Cale, 20, a trained Forward Operator.

“That has been my biggest challenge … converting a 81 mm mortar platoon to a mobile rifle platoon in both organization and equipment necessary to accomplish the task,” said Capt. Bill Sablan, Weapons Company commander.

His Marines aren’t upset by their shift in duties, he said.

“They’re excited they’re actually making a significant contribution. If they’d been stuck in traditional role, they would have been underutilized,” Sablan said. “This area of operation is not conducive to shooting mortars.”

On a night patrol Monday, the 81s Platoon (pronounced eighty-ones) made the rounds through the troubled neighborhoods of Delmas 91, Petion Ville and Bel Air.

A few nights ago, shots were fired in Delmas 91 and the Marines went out to investigate, said platoon leader Sgt. Christopher Rosetti, 25.

Either the residents didn’t know any details, or they simply were too frightened to talk to Marines, a frustrated Rosetti said. But they’re more inclined to talk to Marines than to members of the Haitian National Police, said resident Colbert Estime, 30.

“The Marine presence is good. People here are fearful of the police,” Estime said in English. Based on few details, residents told the Marines the shooting was between two men fighting over a woman and that they didn’t live in the neighborhood.

At the nearby Petion Ville police station, police officers said they had no information of any shooting, and no information on hidden weapons. Crimes in that neighborhood range from kidnappings to stolen cars and burglaries, said night supervisor N.A. Prato.

Though they’re not doing the job they trained for, the Marines’ attitude has been upbeat on the deployment, said Rosetti, of Philadelphia.

Pfc. Newbern Wilson, 19, who’s been a Marine for about 8 months, says he’s easy to please.

“I got what I wanted,” he said of his job as a forward operator. “I picked the job in [School of Infantry] because I didn’t know anything about it and I thought it would be cool. And this is fun. You get to ride around in Humvees or walk around with a gun in your hand.”

In spite of the intense training to learn to seek out enemy targets, plot the correct grid coordinates and call for mortar rounds, Lance Cpl. Stephen Goodall said he isn’t bothered that he isn’t doing the job for which he trained.

“You just go with the flow.”


Sandra Jontz / S&S
Instead of dropping mortar rounds, Cpl. Stephen Goodall, left, and Sgt. Christopher Rosetti from Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines have been conducting foot and vehicle patrols through city streets in Haiti.