151114-N-WA189-107 RIO GRANDE, Brazil (Nov. 14, 2015) Sailors from the USS Chafee (DDG 90), USS McFaul (DDG 74) and sailors from Brazil, Mexico and Chile paint Nov. 14 at a local elementary school in Rio Grande, Brazil. UNITAS 2015, the U.S. Navy's longest running annual multinational maritime exercise, is part of the Southern Seas deployment planned by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. This 56th iteration of UNITAS is conducted in two phases: UNITAS Pacific, hosted by Chile, Oct. 13-24, 2015, and UNITAS Atlantic, hosted by Brazil, Nov. 13-24. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Henderson/Released)
Brazilian School Welcomes UNITAS Sailors During COMREL
RIO GRANDE, Brazil (NNS) -- Sailors from the USS Chafee (DDG 90) and USS McFaul (DDG 74) joined sailors from Brazil, Chile and Mexico to participate in a community relations project (COMREL) at a local elementary school in Rio Grande, Brazil, Nov. 14 during UNITAS Atlantic (LANT) 2015.
UNITAS LANT 2015 is hosted by the Brazilian navy and will include multiple warships, aircraft and submarines that will conduct operations in the Atlantic. UNITAS, conducted every year since 1960, is intended to train participating forces in a variety of maritime scenarios to test command and control forces at sea, while operating as a multi-national force to provide the maximum opportunity to improve interoperability.
During the COMREL in Rio Grande, service members provided a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of the building and many of the school's classrooms, which supports the education of 350 students in grades 1-9. Sailors were not alone in their efforts to update Alcides Barcelos Elementary School's 45-year old structure's interior, the school's principal worked side-by-side with the volunteers.
"For us to receive these Sailors from various countries, willing to give their time to come and help us repair our school is an amazing sight," said Panto Roberto-Forseca, Alcides Barcelos principal. "This school is the center of the community and especially for these children, so the new paint will give them renewed spirits to come back to school."
COMRELs serve to enhance service member involvement with local communities, fostering goodwill and enhancing the partnerships between the U.S. and partner nations.
"I have been in the Navy for more than 15 years and participated in a dozen of these events, from Maine to Malaysia, to Thailand to Chile and now here in Brazil," said Firecontrolman 1st Class Autumn O'Malley, USS Chafee (DDG 90). "When you see the kids come in and see what we are doing, whether its fixing chairs or painting walls their expressions just light-up, and that makes all the work worth it, whether its dirty, stinky, or smelly; to know we are helping make a difference all around the world makes these types of events so worthwhile."
This event is one of several opportunities the Sailors will have to engage with the local community and partner nation service members during this year's exercise.
This is the first of two COMRELs that are scheduled to take place during UNITAS Atlantic 2015, with the second to occur in Rio de Janeiro.
UNITAS, which means "unity" in Latin, is a demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the region and to the value of the strong relationships forged between our partner militaries.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet employ maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to enhance interoperability, build enduring partnerships that foster regional security, and maintain access in the U.S. Southern Command's area of responsibility.