In East Timor, teeth are a military mission for Camp Pendleton forces

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Sometimes the best way to win hearts and minds is to take care of the teeth.

And so while Marines from Camp Pendleton are training with the military forces of East Timor, Navy medical and dental specialists are looking after the needs of civilians -- all part of a visit by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

East Timor, part of the Malay archipelago, is 400 miles from Australia. U.S. military engineers are also refurbishing a school with a new roof, strengthened walls and a paint job.

Marine Col. Gregg Olson, commander of the 11th MEU, says that along with the combat training, the visit is an opportunity to get to know the East Timorese government and school officials before continuing on a six-month training deployment.


The 11th MEU flagship, the amphibious assault craft Bonhomme Richard, left from San Diego three weeks ago.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego