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Pan-American UNITAS Naval Force Renovates Peruvian School

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080625-12
Release Date: 6/25/2008 4:55:00 PM

By Lt. j. g. Thomas Berenato, Destroyer Squadron 40 Public Affairs

CALLAO, Peru (NNS) -- Sailors from the guided-missile destroyers USS Forrest Sherman (DDG-98), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and the guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) joined members of the Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian navies to refurbish a public school in the countryside of Peru June 22.

This multinational force, including three United States ships assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40, collaborated on the project before getting underway for the Pacific phase of UNITAS.

UNITAS is an annual series of exercises - hosted this year by Peru in the port city of Callao - that involves warships and military observers from North, Central and South American nations.

The José Andrés Rázuri Estévez School's 50 faculty and staff serve 1,500 students of all ages from the surrounding neighborhood in Callao's mountainous northern district of Ventanilla. The Sailors spent six hours repainting the exterior walls of three classroom buildings and replacing several fluorescent light bulbs.

Forrest Sherman, Farragut and Kauffman crew members -- 24 in all -- unloaded three pallets, weighing approximately 1,500 pounds, of toys, sporting goods, and first aid items, all donated through Project Handclasp.

"We have always relied on the aid of non-governmental organizations, but this year for the first time we host the military as well," said Percy Arcaya, school director.

"This school was agreed on as a suitable site by representatives from all of the UNITAS navies in our discussions at the initial planning conference last November," said Peruvian Navy commander Jorgé Alfaro, who oversaw the project's execution.

Pausing after a morning of rolling paint, Forrest Sherman's Culinary Specialist 1st Class Felix A. Rowland helped prepare a midday meal of turkey and roast beef sandwiches for Sailors.

"When I get home, I bring out my photos to show my children how differently kids around the world have to live and go to school, it really makes them want to try harder in their school," said Rowland, who has often participated in Forrest Sherman's community relations projects.

Forrest Sherman, based in Norfolk, has been deployed since June 1 in support of U.S. Southern Command's Partnership of the Americas 2008 (POA 08). USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), with embarked LAMPS SH-60B helicopter from HSL 44 Detachment 10, and USS Kauffman (FFG 59), with embarked LAMPS SH-60B from HSL 42 Detachment 7, are assigned to Destroyer Squadron 40 to support POA 08 operations. These operations are conducted April to October throughout South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

POA 08 emphasizes interoperability and cooperation between U.S. and partner nations' maritime forces through a variety of exercises and events.

For more news from Commander, Destroyer Squadron 40, visit www.navy.mil/local/desron40.

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