PASCAGOULA, Miss. - (April 25, 2008) – Thirty two Pre-commissioning Unit (PCU) Makin Island (LHD 8) Sailors volunteered as coaches and safety observers during Central Elementary School’s annual “Field Day” April 25 in Pascagoula, Miss.
LHD 8 Sailors have provided their time and assisted the school since fall 2006, when Sailors from Makin Island and USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) built a new playground at the school, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The volunteers assisted in over a dozen events including an obstacle course and the 50-yard dash for students in grades kindergarten through fifth.
“It was good to get away from the PRECOM building, yet still have Navy involvement,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 2nd Class Ada Sikkema, who was volunteering for the first time at an LHD 8 sponsored event. “It was a relaxed environment and everyone was really appreciative of the help we provided. I will definitely volunteer again!”
According to Central Elementary School’s Principal Stephanie Noble-Yeager, Makin Island Sailors were the reason the event was a success.
“It is wonderful to see the interaction between Central students and ‘their’ Sailors,” said Noble-Yeager. “A relationship with the Sailors has been building for the past few years.”
At the end of the day, Makin Island Sailors, Central Elementary faculty and staff and the entire student body came together to conclude the day-long festivities with a grade level tug-of-war competition.
“The entire school surrounds the event and cheers each other on,” said Noble-Yeager. “Win or lose, high fives are common as are lots of smiles and grins.”
Along with various volunteer events, LHD 8 crew members mentor Central students by attending weekly tutoring sessions, and according to Noble-Yeager these Sailors have become an influential part of the culture at the school.
“Watching a room full of Sailors sitting with young children reading, doing math and talking about making the right choices, warms my heart,” she said. “We will certainly miss them when the ship moves to its permanent home.”
Following delivery to the Navy, Makin Island will be commissioned and homeported in San Diego.
Sailors, who are in their nine to 12-month negotiating window for orders and want to be part of the pre-commissioning command, can contact their rating detailer and ask to be released to the pre-commissioning detailer for further assignment to Makin Island. Makin Island currently has almost half of its 1,100-person crew.