MARTKOPI, Georgia — U.S. service members here, who are part of the Georgia Deployment Program in support of International Security Assistance Forces, partnered with Georgian soldiers and volunteered their free time refurbishing an orphanage for the disabled here, Sept. 27 as part of an ongoing effort to provide aid and to help make a difference in the local community they serve.
Members of the Georgia Training Team (GTT) assisted with clearing, cleaning and repair work at the Martkopi Specialized Organization for People with Disabilities, an orphanage in the Gardabani district that is designed to house and school less-fortunate children.
"As Marines, we always strive to be good members of the community and help in any way that we can," said U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Jonathan Heard, communications chief for the GTT. "It's a nice feeling doing this; the work we're doing here today for the Georgians will leave a lifelong impression."
Once the service members unloaded their tools and equipment, they quickly commenced working. The military members started outdoors first by cleaning up the compound area and cutting unwanted brush around the building. They collected everything from broken bricks and rocks, to plastic bottles, old newspapers, vehicle parts, and furniture for disposal.
The service members, all volunteers for this project, laughed and joked as they worked throughout the day.
The orphanage refurbishment is an on-going project for the next six months or until the all repairs to the building are complete; once done, it will house approximately 60 orphans with special needs.
"I find it so rewarding to be able to help out in any community and being out here in Georgia at this orphanage is no different," said Air Force Capt. Christine Carr, officer-in-charge of the Georgia support team. "Ever since I arrived, the local community has been so welcoming and accommodating and it's great to be able to give back to them in a way that will help so many."
Carr said this was the first time she's had an opportunity to volunteer for a project as such and feels like she's making a large impact by turning an inadequate facility into an orphanage for special needs children. "It's a wonderful feeling," Carr said.
The person responsible for coordinating this charity project, U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Brent L. Dorrough, senior enlisted advisor of Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group and the GTT, said that the goal of their deployment does not only include training of the Georgian Army but also to establish good relations with the local communities.
"To me, there is nothing more personally rewarding than helping disabled children," said Dorrough. "Of course our primary mission here is to train the Georgian Army to work alongside our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, but we have a moral obligation, in my opinion, to help out as much as we possibly can," said the 17-year veteran.
"It all boils down to doing what is right, and working alongside all of the motivated Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen every weekend reassures my beliefs that this is the right thing to do," said Lt. Col. Dan T. Thoele, deputy director of MCTAG and GTT leader.
"You never hear a single complaint," Thoele said, "Because every person working is a volunteer, and has chosen to spend their free time helping out."
The director of the school/orphanage was astounded with the results the Marines have produced up to this point.
"We truly appreciate the help of the U.S. Marines and other services," said Lela Kiknadze, director of the orphanage. "It is a great experience for all of us to work together, combined to make such a generous contribution to our future, future of kids with disabilities and for our country."
Georgia is scheduled to provide an infantry battalion to serve along with U.S., allies and other partner nations in Afghanistan. The GDP is a two-year training program consisting of four 6-month rotations designed to train four Georgian infantry battalions in counter-insurgency tactics, techniques and procedures in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan in support of International Security Assistance Forces.