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Marine Corps Forces Africa

U.S. Africa Command

USAG Stuttgart, Germany
SP-MAGTF Africa 13 Marines, sailors volunteer at Italian parish

By Cpl. Timothy Norris | Marine Corps Forces Africa | March 08, 2013

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Chief Petty Officer Christopher Yaris, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 corpsman from Austin, Pa., stirs paint for a fence at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013 The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response.

Chief Petty Officer Christopher Yaris, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 corpsman from Austin, Pa., stirs paint for a fence at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013 The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response. (Photo by Cpl. Timothy Norris)


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Sgt. Balec Nelson, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 radio operator from Kailua, Hawaii, paints a fence at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013. The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response. (

Sgt. Balec Nelson, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 radio operator from Kailua, Hawaii, paints a fence at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013. The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response. ( (Photo by Cpl. Timothy Norris)


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Chief Petty Officer Christopher Yaris, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 corpsman from Austin, Pa., rinses brushes used to paint a fence at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013 The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response.

Chief Petty Officer Christopher Yaris, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 corpsman from Austin, Pa., rinses brushes used to paint a fence at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013 The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response. (Photo by Cpl. Timothy Norris)


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Sgt. Kalei Whittle, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 reconnaissance Marine from Honolulu, Hawaii, grinds away rusted areas of the main gate at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013. The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response.

Sgt. Kalei Whittle, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 reconnaissance Marine from Honolulu, Hawaii, grinds away rusted areas of the main gate at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013. The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response. (Photo by Cpl. Timothy Norris)


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Chief Petty Officer Souly Inthavong, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 corpsman from Modesto, Calif., sweeps the courtyard at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013. The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response.

Chief Petty Officer Souly Inthavong, a Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 corpsman from Modesto, Calif., sweeps the courtyard at the San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Church, Feb. 27, 2013. The Marines and sailors cleaned and restored the church grounds to help foster a positive relationship with the Italian community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response. (Photo by Cpl. Timothy Norris)


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CATANIA, Italy -- On a street corner in Catania busy with cars, scooters and people commuting in every direction, a small church, old and weathered, stands with a renewed beauty.

The volunteers collectively spent more than 30 hours on the project in addition to their regular duties at Naval Air Station Sigonella.

“It’s a beautiful testament to humanity,” said Rev. Gilbert Mukanda. “It’s a sacrifice of time and a good example to the community.”

The St. Joseph church was inaugurated in 1968 and has a strong history in the “Pigno” village, which was built in the late fifties to house immigrants from the center of Sicily. Mukanda leads the parish from St. Joseph where time has taken a toll on the building and the grounds.

“The building is very dilapidated,” Mukanda said. “So getting people to work hard and make it better is very difficult. Whenever they come it makes me happy to see how hard they work.”

Throughout the day, the residents passing by would stop to admire the cleaning efforts and express their gratitude with a smile and “grazie.”

“I think that it gives us a good face in the local community,” said Chief Petty Officer Christopher Yaris, SP-MAGTF Africa 13 corpsman. “It allows us to show that we care and are willing to help.”

Volunteering his time was not new, said the Austin, Pa., native who grew up volunteering with his Boy Scout troop and church.
“It makes you a well-rounded, sailor, Marine, airmen or soldier,” he said. “Not only do you have a duty to do your job, but to be a good citizen and help out wherever you can.”

At the end of the day it was a win-win project for everyone.
“We derive joy helping them help the community,” Mukanda said. “We are supportive of them because they are supportive of our church.”

Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa conducts security force assistance and military-to-military engagements throughout Africa in support of Marine Forces Africa and U.S. Africa Command. The approximately 150 Marines and sailors are also trained to provide limited crisis response.
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