KEY WEST, Fla. - Sailors assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) spent Sept. 28 and 29 participating in six community relations (COMREL) projects while spending the week in Key West preparing for the ship's commissioning ceremony Oct. 1.
Approximately 100 Sailors volunteered for projects at the Key West Wildlife Center, Sigsbee Charter School, the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, Grace Lutheran School, Habitat for Humanity and Friends of Mallory.
Sailors performed a wide range of services, from cleaning bird cages at the Wildlife Center, to building a playground for the Outreach Coalition to restoring a gun mount at Key West's Military Memorial in Mallory Square.
These COMREL projects allowed the Sailors to familiarize themselves with Key West, the host city that is bringing their ship to life, and it allowed the Sailors to do something beneficial for others.
"I volunteered so that I can show my appreciation to Key West for being so hospitable to us," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Paul Segarra, from Bronx, N.Y., who worked at the Key West Wildlife Center. "The people of Key West have been great. We all feel like we have been welcomed to the community with open arms."
The projects were organized by USS Spruance (DDG 111) Commissioning Committee member Jim Reynolds, who said that all of the non-profit organizations were excited for the crew's help.
"Spruance's crew volunteered their valuable time to help our community," Reynolds said. "They could have been on liberty or hanging out in the air conditioning, but they put service above self. The feedback I got from the groups was that they were surprised at how much hard work got done."
Key West is known as a tourist destination, and the crew of Spruance is experiencing all that Key West has to offer, like fishing, watersports and tours, all courtesy of the commissioning committee and Key West businesses. Ensign Kelson Mosier, from San Diego, who helped refurbish the historic gun mount from USS Maine at Key West's Military Memorial, said that Key West was more than he expected.
"This has been so much better than I could have wished for it be," Mosier said. "I was honored to be able to help maintain such an important piece of naval history. The area is great and to be able to help the community in any way is an honor."
Mosier's shipmate Segarra echoed his sentiments.
"After leaving Bath, Maine, Key West seems like a vacation, but we're not here for vacation, we're here to work hard and be ambassadors of the Navy and Spruance," Segarra said. "Our Sailors have shown great dedication to helping local communities by supporting local causes. I couldn't be prouder to be a part of this ship."