HONG KONG – The amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), with embarked elements of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, conducted a five day quality-of-life port visit to the Chinese territory. After completing an arduous operational patrol of multinational exercises with regional partners over the summer and fall, the Sailors and Marines were ready to support theater security initiatives by engaging with the local community and taking in the sights of culture of Hong Kong.
While there was time to enjoy a respite from the operational schedule, Germantown’s crew and embarked Sailors and Marines also took advantage of the opportunities provided to interact with the local community by conducting ship tours and taking part in several Community Service (COMSERV) projects. Two COMSERV projects were held at SKH Tsoi Kung Po and SKH Holy Carpenter Schools that allowed service members to leave lasting impressions with the youth that will help bridge our cultures. The ship tours with several local organizations and supporters were also a great engagement opportunity for the community, particularly the Boy Scouts and Sea Cadets, as young minds were provided initial exposure to the challenges and rewards of leadership.
“These community engagements truly are a unique opportunity for the entire crew,” said Cmdr. Gary Harrington, Germantown’s Commanding Officer. “They enable Sailors and Marines to not only take a well-deserved break from underway operations but allow them to volunteer their time to make a continued difference. They want to ‘give back’ and act as goodwill ambassadors for the United States to the region in a way only a forward-deployed force can.”
More than seventy Sailors and Marines offered up their time and service during this port call, adding to the already significant number of volunteer hours contributed during this deployment. Whether it was acting as a guide during a ship tour or visiting with local volunteers for “Meals in the Home” exchange, the service members aboard Germantown were eager to link with the gracious hosts in Hong Kong.
“It was very interesting to learn about their culture and talk to the children in the school,” said Personnel Specialist 1st Class Mark Gregorio, a COMSERV volunteer. “As a young child in the Philippines, I experienced multiple encounters with missionaries and volunteer workers. This opportunity made me feel like I was giving back what had been given to me.”
The “Meals in the Home” (MITH) program was a unique COMSERV opportunity for the Germantown Sailors and Marines to take part in. MITH is a long-standing program where local community members sponsor service members to visit their residences or to join in a group tour of some cultural or scenic destination.
“I had the chance to try a Chinese meal during a Jewish dinner with a local family,” said Operations Specialist 3rd Class Annie Hall. “These exchanges helped us to better understand the day-to-day lives of people in some of the ports we visit since we don’t usually get to go into their homes.”
In addition to establishing lasting impressions through volunteer work in the community, USS Germantown welcomed distinguished guests aboard for an elaborate evening reception. The ship’s crew dedicated their efforts toward food preparation, rolling out the red carpet and setting up tables on the flight deck, creating a truly welcoming environment for distinguished guests. The event was an incredible success and was attended by a wide range of dignitaries to include the Consul General of the United States, Consul General of Spain, Consul General of New Zealand, and various officials of the People’s Liberation Army/Navy.
Additionally, the ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation coordinators organized several exciting trips, allowing the crew to embrace the local culture and surrounding sites. Trips included scenic hikes to Hong Kong’s classic destinations like Victoria’s Peak and the Buddha on Lantau Island, a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland and tours of this uniquely metropolitan, international city.