USS NEW ORLEANS, At Sea - The religious programs team aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) handed out donated gifts from various charitable organizations to crew members Dec. 22.
The gifts arrived while the ship is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) just in time for the holiday season and included 48 care packages filled with candy, razors, and soap that were donated by the Faith Covenant Church of Jackson, Miss., and four boxes filled with hand-knit toboggans that were donated by The Ships Project.
"It's one thing that's really amazing is just how generous the American public is," said Lt. Paul Armstrong, New Orleans' command chaplain. "This was an opportunity to make people's day a little bit better by surprising them in their work center by handing out gifts. Having little positive things helps us focus on the bigger picture."
Seaman Dashara Ferrell expressed excitement over receiving gifts while deployed.
"It's always good to get a gift during the holiday season, even if it's from a complete stranger," said Ferrell. "It's good to know that someone other than our family and friends care about what were doing far away from home."
Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Aubrey Barnes helped pass out the gifts and he said it served as a morale booster.
"It was a nice feeling to hand somebody a gift and see them smiling back at me," said Barnes. "It helped brighten their day and made me feel like I accomplished something special."
According to their official website, The Ships Project for Troop Support was founded in October 2001 and sends handmade hats, slippers and cool-ties to Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen deployed in support of overseas contingency operations.
New Orleans deployed Nov. 14 in support of the nation's maritime strategy. New Orleans, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), along with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, make up the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
The mission of the Makin Island ARG is to help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and provide humanitarian/disaster response as well as supporting the Navy's maritime strategy when forward deployed.
The 7th Fleet AOR includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans, stretching from the international date line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.
More than half of the world's population lives within the 7th Fleet AOR. In addition, more than 80 percent of that population lives within 500 miles of the oceans, which means this is an inherently maritime region.