- Sailors and Marines assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), participated in a community relations (COMREL) project at the Regional Institute for Active Learning (RIA) during a port visit to Bahrain, March 13.
Eleven crew members danced and colored with students, ages two to 14.
“It was really nice seeing everyone so happy; they were guiding us around and playing with us. I had a lot of fun,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Darrell Amio, assigned to 11th MEU.
Makin Island Sailors and Marines volunteered their time to help further strengthen ties with the local community.
“COMRELs in general, especially here in Bahrain, help to establish a foundation between the military and the local people,” said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Chelsea Seamans, assigned to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
After more than 70 days at-sea, Sailors and Marines took time to get involved with RIA.
“Having the privilege to come here often is awesome,” said Seamans, who escorted the Sailors and Marines to the event. “Whenever ships come in we enjoy bringing them here.”
RIA was founded in 1999 and is a non-profit organization. It offers a year-round curriculum, offering academic and social development to special needs children.
“When the Sailors and Marines come out here, they have a blast,” said Seamans. “The kids are just so interactive.”
The exchange between the children and the service members provide both parties lasting memories.
“The most memorable part for me was seeing how the children were so excited,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Reynaldo Aurellano. “I learned that even small interactions can have a big impact.”
COMRELS provide a unique experience and the opportunity to have a positive impact on the ports that the U.S. military visits.
“It gets you out of the deployment mindset and gives you a different perspective of the local cultures and people,” said Amio. “I suggest to all Sailors and Marines that if you hear of a COMREL, you should hop on it.” Makin Island and embarked 11th MEU are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.