- U.S. Navy and Royal Malaysian navy Sailors began a series of community service activities as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2011 June 7 at a local orphanage.
The civic action projects and community service activities conducted by Malaysian and U.S. Navy personnel are intended to demonstrate bilateral support for both security and humanitarian assistance. The CARAT participants, comprised of Sailors aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Ford (FFG 54) and USS Howard (DDG 83), are participating in four community service projects to improve the quality of life for local civilians.
"This goes to the very core of who and what we are," said Cmdr. Ron Tomlin, the chaplain for Destroyer Squadron 31. "By helping in partnership with the Royal Malaysian Navy we are standing shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, with their community. These children may not remember what we say, but they will remember what we have done."
Sailors played games of tug-of-war, a game of dodge-ball with water balloons, and gave out candy and presents to the local orphans. Children could be seen running in the field near the orphanage while talking, laughing and playing with the CARAT participants.
"We are showing that the U.S. and Royal Malaysian navies are able to do so much more when we cooperate together," said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Lonnie McDade, who helped organize the event. "Working with the kids and community is a way for the U.S. to say we care about them."
To Operations Specialiast Seaman Apprentice Kaisha Heggie, a Sailor aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 46), the community service event wasn't just about building partnerships with Malaysia. According to her, the most important part was having fun with the kids.
"I love it. These kids are so much fun that I don't want to leave," said Heggie. "I'm glad we all got to come out and have a great time together."
CARAT is a series of multi-lateral military training exercises intended to build upon the growing partnerships between the U.S. military and Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian naval forces in Southeast Asia.