Saipan disaster hits close to home for Marine

Saipan disaster hits close to home for Marine

by MC3 David A. Cox
USS Ashland PAO

SAIPAN HARBOR, Saipan – Marine Cpl. Pateh Tine jumps down from his Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) or more commonly referred to as the 7-Ton truck. The sweat dripping down his face in the 90 degree weather, he looks out at the warehouse where the 31st Expeditionary Marine Unit (MEU) has staged water making equipment gear. He waves over another corporal to assist him. Tine has spent two weeks supporting disaster relief efforts in Saipan.

This is his first humanitarian mission since joining the Marine Corps; however, this is not his first experience in a devastated environment.

“I was pretty much in this same type of situation back in Africa, in Sierra Leone,” said Tine. “There was a civil war going on, it got pretty bad to the point where we had to go to a refugee camp to stay safe and away from danger, here I am as a little kid with my family in the refugee camp, then finally the United States Marines came to the camp and pretty much saved us; 15, 16 years later I’m in the Marine Corps, and I guess this is my way of paying back the United States for all the help they’ve given me.”

Tine was born in a small village in Sierra Leone, Africa, and was later moved to a refugee camp with his parents during Africa’s civil war over “blood” diamonds. At the age of seven, Tine and his parents were transferred to the U.S. after being selected from a group of people at the camp.

“I try to stay as humble as possible, these guys are going through some pretty hard times and if I were in their situation I would want somebody to come out here and help me out as well,” said Tine, “Everybody that we’ve met so far has been so positive about it, we show up and some will shake our hands and they’re all smiling and joking around even though the fact is their houses are gone.”

Tine and his fellow Marines have helped bring much needed water, food and shelter to many weather torn communities in Saipan.

“We’ve gone back and forth delivering food, water and other resources that they need, averaging about eight to nine missions a day,” said Tine. “When we go out there, we see areas that have been torn apart, some areas where houses have been tossed around, trees all over the place, you can see through walls, through buildings, some buildings were totally demolished, a lot of people lost their homes, they’re sitting on a pretty tight spot right now.”

Since arriving in Saipan, Tine has made over 50 trips to several community and distribution centers, helping the community to slowly get back on its feet.

Tine’s experience as a child watching his parents struggle and having to move many times gives him a new appreciation for what he does now in the Marines and especially with the relief efforts in Saipan.

“Having to come out here and do this, it kind of hits home in a way that I’ve seen this happen before, I know people who have gone through this, including myself, and I know it’s tough, there’s a lot of sacrifices that aren’t really yours to make,” said Tine.

Tine received his naturalization this year in May at the South Korean Embassy. Tine’s mother currently lives in Houston, Texas.

“The fact that I like being challenged is one of the main reasons why I joined the Marine Corps, and helping these folks is a challenge that makes me very happy on the inside, it all depends on the type of person you are and how you take things in stride, if you’ve got a good core, you can make it, anybody can make it.”

Tine is attached to the Motor Transport Platoon from 31st MEU’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and embarked on USS Ashland (LSD 48.) USS Ashland and 31st MEU arrived in Saipan to provide aid Aug. 8.

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