DILI, East Timor –
Major Ruby Gee, the liaison coordination assessment team officer-in-charge, and a civil affairs officer, along with Cpl. Lydia McKinney, the team’s cultural liaison non-commissioned officer, are assigned to Timor-Leste.
The team is part of Task Force Oceania, a U.S. Army effort to build foreign partner relationships, interoperability, and capacity in the region.
Oceania is one of the largest, most diverse regions in the world, from the Western coast of Australia to Easter Island spanning over 8,000 km, covering 13 time zones and over 5.3 million square km. The many island nations that call this region home each face unique challenges.
Task Force Oceania, part of the 9th Mission Support Command at Fort Shafter Flats, Hawaii, is a U.S. Army civil affairs focused organization. The Task Force is especially suited to work with the civilian population of Timor-Leste to find solutions that best suit their needs.
Under the guidance of the U.S. Embassy in Timor-Leste, Gee and McKinney are tasked with working closely with State Department personnel, the government of Timor-Leste, community organizations, and various Department of Defense and U.S. agencies to accomplish the mission of building partner interoperability and capacity in the Pacific island country. “Building stronger relationships with our partners is a far reaching investment which deepens our ties in the region and contributes to the achievement of shared goals and interests,” said Task Force Oceania’s Deputy Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Igor Dubinsky.
“One of the best qualities of the U.S. military is our ability to extend assistance into other regions of the world,” said Gee. “We know that Timor-Leste is prone to natural disasters and in civil affairs, providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance is our specialty.” Gee continued, “One of the best things about the U.S. is its generosity and its willingness to help other countries.”
Echoing similar sentiments, McKinney hopes to “establish relationships that can be strengthened over the years and that will be mutually beneficial for everyone.” As part of Task Force Oceania, the all-woman team also helps out in their free time. Both express interest in serving the orphan population of the island and have visited various orphanages to assess their needs and provide supplies.
Additionally, the team volunteers at UmaAmerika, a Department of State supported free access center devoted to sharing American culture, fostering innovation and open exchange of information between the U.S. and Timor-Leste. “It’s been a lot of fun working with the U.S. Embassy program UmaAmerika,” Gee said. “Corporal McKinney and I volunteer there often to participate in their English-speaking course, where many of the students aspire to be part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. It is inspiring to see young people pursue their country’s interests with such enthusiasm.”
This is Task Force Oceania’s first year in Timor-Leste. Each Pacific island liaison coordination assessment team is on a one-year assignment. At the end of the year, they will be replaced by another team to maintain consistent U.S. Army support to Timor-Leste in the years to come.