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Essex Sailors Exchange Goodwill with Philippine Students
SUBIC BAY, Republic of the Philippines -- Sailors assigned to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) visited a local area school during a port visit to Subic Bay, Philippines March 18.

Approximately 80 Essex Sailors visited San Juan Nepomuceno Elementary School to build friendships with the students and the community as a part of the in-port phase of Exercise Balikatan 2010 (BK 10).

Essex Sailors chose to visit the school because one of their own is an alumnus. Lt. Rico Reyes, Essex Principal Assistant for Logistics, attended the school more than 30 years ago, and this was the second project he has organized at his former alma mater.

“It feels good to be back here,” said Reyes. “I went to first through sixth grades here and it’s awesome to see the Sailors here brightening the kids’ lives.”

Reyes enlisted the help of his fellow supply officers in order to work out the logistics of the event where Sailors distributed “Project Handclasp” materials and shared food during a barbecue with the students.

Project Handclasp distributes educational, humanitarian and goodwill material overseas on a space-available basis in U.S. Navy ships. Materials are distributed directly to recipients by U.S. service personnel stationed in overseas areas or embarked in U.S. Navy ships which visit these areas.

“It was important to us to support these students,” said Essex Supply Officer Cmdr. Kyle Luksovsky. “This was also a great opportunity to get some of our supply officers out of the office and give them a chance to interact with the local community. The supply world doesn’t stop just because the ship has liberty and these guys often don’t get a chance to go to events like this.”

The visit also gave students an opportunity to practice English by talking to Sailors about the places they have been and what they do on the ship. The students start learning English in the third grade as part of their standard curriculum.

“The kids had a ton of energy and were very eager to have fun with us,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Yondale Coston. “They made me feel like a kid again, playing games and running foot races. I couldn’t have had more fun.”

When it was time for the Sailors to leave, the school children waved and chased after the buses until they were out of sight, showing the Sailors how much their time spent meant to them.

Essex was invited by the Republic of the Philippines to participate in BK10, an annual, bilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability between the U.S. and Republic of the Philippines. BK10 is the 26th in the series of these exercises.
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