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Wasp Starts Deployment Off Right With Liberty in Malta

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040323-14

Release Date: 3/24/2004 4:00:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Mark C. Schultz, USS Wasp Public Affairs

VALLETTA, Malta (NNS) -- USS Wasp (LHD 1) made history again in Malta, as Sailors and Marines of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2 enjoyed their first liberty ports of their 2004 deployment in early March.

Wasp Sailors and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines participated in the goodwill visit, designed to strengthen and nurture U.S.-Maltese relations. The port visit gave approximately 3,000 Sailors and Marines aboard a chance to relax, and enjoy a few days in a place most had never been before.

Upon the ship's arrival off the coast, Wasp hosted distinguished visitors from Malta and the U.S. embassy for breakfast and a tour of the ship. That evening, the ship hosted a reception in honor of the retiring commander of the armed forces of Malta, that included about 300 guests, including the U.S. ambassador to Malta, and dozens of diplomats from all over the world.

"The reception was a great success thanks to the hard work of everyone on board," said Cmdr. Peter Dahl, Wasp's supply officer. "And though it was a lot of work, it was great experience and a lot of fun, once the reception kicked off. Wasp Sailors and Marines really showed their best that evening."

"The aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV 7) made history here in 1942 during World War II," said Capt. James E. Wise II, the commanding officer of Wasp during a speech at the reception. "Today, Wasp is making history in Malta again. ESG 2 is the first ESG to deploy from the East Coast of the United States, the first to enter the Mediterranean Sea, and the first to enter a Mediterranean port. Given the history between Malta and Wasp, we're proud to make Malta the first port of call for the flagship of ESG 2."

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation department set up full- and half-day tours, and the religious ministries department set up a community relations project. Sailors and Marines had the option of participating in any or all of these programs, or could go off and sightsee, shop or participate in other recreational activities on their own.

"The thing I liked about the tours is that everything is there for you in a package," said Intelligence Specailist 3rd Class Antonio Pagan, an Orlando, Fla., native. "The tours were better than I hoped! You got to see historical forts and churches and modern buildings."

Several Sailors and Marines volunteered to clean and paint Dar ilQulb ta'Gesu, a shelter for battered women and children in Sta Venera, as part of a community relations project.

"We took 28 volunteers with us, but many more service members wanted to sign up," said Wasp Chaplain Cmdr. George Adams. "Half the group cleaned a kitchen, dining hall and meeting room, and the other half painted a stairwell and entryway. This was a very positive experience for all the volunteers, and we certainly met the families' expectations."

According to U.S. embassy staff, the port visit was a great success for all involved, and helped to strengthen the established cooperation between the United States and Malta. From shopping to tours to golf, service members from the first ESG to visit Malta said they had a great time.

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