SOUTH CHINA SEA – The guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) concluded its four-day port visit to Cambodia Dec. 7.
The crew interacted with the local Sihanoukville community, the Royal Cambodian Navy and several Cambodians in both remote and urban locations across the country to strengthen relations with the partner nation.
“I am at a loss for words,” said Mustin’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz. “I am so proud of the crew. We were very aggressive in our scheduled engagements, not only in Sihanoukville, but across the entire country. We engaged on several issues both to promote American good will as well as raise the crew awareness on several real problems facing the people of the Kingdom of Cambodia, including poverty, illiteracy, human trafficking and mine danger.”
While the visit for Misiewicz made international news, as a homecoming for him, 37 years after escaping killing fields of Cambodia’s during the country’s civil war period in the murderous Khmer Rouge. He made sure the Sailors aboard Mustin engageed with the Cambodian community through a wide variety of events that would help both sides learn more about one another and gain knowledge from their encounters.
Misiewicz also met with high ranking military officials in the Royal Cambodian Navy and public officials while his crew hosted guided tours of the ship and engaged in military-to-military training with Royal Cambodian Navy.
Cambodian sailors received military training on board Mustin, ranging from weapon and damage control familiarization, first aid treatment to shipboard aviation basics, all led by Mustin subject matter experts.
Stepping away from the ship, Sailors from both navies engaged in friendly recreational activities at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base. Mustin made up for its last performance in 2008 against the Cambodian Navy in a soccer match by winning this time around 3-2.
Mustin’s crew hosted a reception on the ship’s flight deck for distinguished guest, which included the U.S Ambassador to Cambodia Carol A. Rodley, the chief of the Cambodian navy along with several other officials and military leaders from Cambodia.
Human rights advocate Somaly Mam, a Cambodian author, attended the reception too. Mam is a sponsor for the Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) and Acting for Women in Distressing Situations (AFESIP) Cambodia, which campaigns against human sex trafficking.
Young victims saved by AFESIP and working with SMF were in attendance at the reception as guest of Mam, and shared their experiences of being in the dark world of human trafficking.
Misiewicz and Rodley visited the Tom Dy Center, a rehabilitation and vocational skills training center in the country’s capital city Phnom Penh, Cambodia .They presented Mam with a token of appreciation for her visit to the ship. Misiewicz also took time to visit the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, which supports the development of Cambodia by going to rural areas to make them safer places for their inhabitants to live in.
Giving back to the community is taken seriously during a port visit, according to Sailors aboard Mustin, as they volunteered at the Goodwill School and Happy House orphanage. Two local charity organizations in Sihanoukville, where crew members interacted with the children playing games and dropping off donated goods. Many of the Sailors said, they were very touched and moved by the children at the Happy House that they went out in town and purchased new shoes for the all of the children at the center.
A first time event for Mustin Sailors turned out to be a first for U.S. service members in more than 10 years. Mustin Sailors along with the 7th Fleet Orient Express Band, who performed the day before in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 people, packed up their gear and headed to the remote district of Samlaut, Cambodia Dec. 5. An overnight volunteer project sponsored by the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, an organization that promotes the social well being and progress of the most remote areas of Cambodia, which was founded by actress Angelina Jolie in 2003.
“It’s just incredible to look back at all of the things we accomplished over the past four days,” Misiewicz said. “One ship, one crew, it was incredible. I had very little time to see family, but the time I did spend with them gave me enough to cherish the moment and just the little time I had with them was very precious to me and I will never forget that. This was an opportunity of the lifetime. On behalf of my crew I can only thank our leadership in the U.S. Navy for having the vision to make this visit possible for us.”