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Task Group 40.0 Departs Mejillones in Support of Team Work South

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070615-04
Release Date: 6/15/2007 10:13:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Alexia Riveracorrea, Partnership of the Americas Task Group 40.0 Public Affairs

MEJILLONES, Chile (NNS) -- USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and Chilean Frigate Almirante Latorre (FFG 14) of Partnership of the Americas (POA) Task Group 40.0 departed Mejillones on June 2 to begin the underway exercises of Team Work South 2007 after a rewarding port visit.

On May 31, approximately 65 Sailors from Pearl Harbor, Mitscher and partner nations from Chile, the United Kingdom and France participated in three community relations projects in Mejillones and Michilla, Chile.

A group of 25 Sailors from the Mitcher went to an Elderly Day Care Center in Mejillones where they spent the day painting and cleaning up the inner courtyard. The Sailors also presented materials donated from Project Handclasp to the center.

“Many Sailors were touched by the simple means that the center works with on a daily basis and the amount of good that they are able to do for the elderly in this small community,” said Lt. Dennis Wheeler, Pearl Harbor’s chaplain. “Both the staff and the elderly enjoyed having the young people there as they worked on their facilities. One thing that surprised many of the Sailors were that they grew their own vegetables and even had enough left over to sell to the local population. The center was very proud of this and loved to show it off to the Sailors.”

A second group of 19 Sailors went to a local Mejillones school for children with developmental challenges, where they worked on cleaning up a play area, sanding and repainting playground equipment and the inside of the wall that surrounds the school.

“Some of the crew played ping-pong with the children as well as the other Chilean Sailors that were there to help,” said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Glenda Techur from Pearl Harbor. “For lunch time we shared food with the school children. They were very excited to try the food from United States.”

The third group traveled an hour to the small village of Michilla where they sanded and painted the two buildings that make up the country school. This third group also constructed a wooden stage to be used by the school for shows and town meetings and a water storage tower. At this site, Project Handclasp materials were delivered and U.S. Sailors were able to give the school toys, recreational items, hygiene supplies and sewing machines.

“The community relations projects were a complete success, thanks to the effort put out by every Sailor. Their hard work is valuable in order to accomplish a common goal, which is helping others and representing the country in the best manner,” said Wheeler. “Sailors from partner nations also enjoyed the interaction with the rural Chilean community and appreciated all the gifts.”

Kids from Lucila Godoy Alcayaga School in Machilla performed an entertainment show, where Sailors had the opportunity to dance and sing along with the children.

“I had a great time watching my shipmates dance and sing with the kids, but the most exciting part for me was seeing the kids’ faces light up when they received the gifts that we brought them,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Robert Gaona from Pearl Harbor. “It gave me a sense of fulfillment because I knew we made a difference that day. It was much more rewarding for everyone who came out today to see these kid’s spirits be lifted by our presence.”

Sporting events and barbecues were among other activities Sailors took advantage of during their stay in Mejillones. Pearl Harbor fielded an impressive basketball team, eventually winning the tournament between all of the ships, and the tug of war team placed second in a hotly contested event.

“As a member of the basketball team, I had a very nice experience while playing with Sailors from different partner nations,” said Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) 3rd Class Tony Harrel. “These types of activities enhance morale in Sailors. I am excited every time we have a tournament. It is something to look forward.”

The POA Task Group 40.0 is currently conducting Team Work South and consists of dock landing ship Pearl Harbor, guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), guided-missile destroyer Mitscher, and Chilean frigate Almirante Latorre.

POA 2007 is a U.S. Naval Forces Southern command deployment focusing on enhancing relationships with regional partner nations through a variety of exercises and events at sea and on shore throughout South America and the Caribbean.

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