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Intelligence Marines volunteer to help harvest sugar cane

Date Posted: 2004-02-26

ISHIKAWA, Okinawa, Japan Marines of Ground Sensor Platoon, 3rd Intelligence Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force, volunteered to help the mentally handicapped students from the Reimei No Sato school harvest some of last year's sugar cane crop Feb. 5 in Ishikawa City.

The Marines teamed up with the students to help elderly Okinawan farmers gather their crops. The farmers had already cut down the sugar cane stalks and left small bundles scattered throughout their fields.

With the farmers getting older, the job of moving the bundles was just too much for them to do alone. For the Marines though, it was a piece of cake.

"We're just trying to help out, but we have a lot of fun in the process," said Pfc. Daniel Rheaume, ground sensor surveillance operator.

The Marines met the students at the school, where together they boarded two buses to bring them from field to field.

When they reached the fields, they were tasked with retrieving the small bundles and stacking them into about eight larger piles, approximately four feet tall in each of the five fields they visited. They piled the cane stalks on top of large wire cables that had been laid on the ground beforehand.

When the Marines and students finished piling the sugar cane, the farmers used the cables to bind the stacks. The cane stalks were then lifted onto trucks using a crane. The trucks later took the cane stalks away to be processed into sugar.

"It's fun. You don't really get a chance to do stuff like this back home," said Lance Cpl. Antoin Alba, ground sensor surveillance operator, from Lancaster, N.H.

The Marines and Okinawans took a break between fields to enjoy some sodas and Japanese cookies together. The students' outgoing nature was very pleasing as they offered the Marines some refreshments.

Even with the rain keeping their clothes a little soggy and the wind giving the rain an even colder feel, the laborers' spirits weren't dampened in the least. Everyone just kept smiling and worked side by side until the job was complete.

"I loved it. It was a ball and it does a lot of good. It gets everyone out and doing things. They loved meeting us and it's just fun seeing them happy," said Gunnery Sgt. Richard Harrison, special security officer chief.

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