To the senior representative of the Timor-Leste Defense Force, Lieutenant Colonel Haksolok (HACK-so-loke), Ambassador Roberts, Ambassador Minami, the soldiers of the Timor-Leste Defense Force, the Australian Defense Force, the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force, and of course, the U.S. Navy Seabees and United States Marines. Bondia.
I am delighted to be here with you all today to celebrate the closing ceremony of Hari’i Hamutuk – the largest multilateral exercise in Timor-Leste.
However, there was a moment that tested the resolve our alliance. I received a report that several weeks ago, a U.S. Marine was taken out by a member of the Australian Defense Force during a soccer match. In the United States, we would call this a “blue on blue” or “friendly fire” incident.
Luckily, the Marine was not seriously injured and we are certain the incident was an accident. However, we are giving fair warning to our Australian friends: Watch your step next year!
But in all seriousness, we truly appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this tremendous multilateral exercise. The community will greatly benefit from the work you have done at the Beduku School. The classrooms you’ve built at Hera Naval base will lead to better English language and maritime security training for F-FDTL.
And just as important, by working side by side, we are increasing our interoperability and ensuring that in a time of crisis, our militaries would be able to respond more quickly and work together more efficiently.
Thank you to the F-FDTL for being such wonderful hosts and thank you to the Japanese and Australian soldiers. And of course, thank you to our U.S. Navy Seabees and Marines for your hard work and sacrifice. You help demonstrate the best that America has to offer and we are so proud of you all. Have a safe trip home and know that you will always be welcome in Timor-Leste. Hoorah NMCB 5! Oorah Marines!