PHUKET, Thailand -
Sailors and Marines deployed aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and part of 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in a community service (COMSERV) project with the Royal Thai Navy at the Home & Life Orphanage in Phang Nga, Thailand during a port visit August 23-24.
The project, co-sponsored by the Navy League of the United States, Phuket Thailand, involved participants assisting in shoring up, and adding to, an existing retaining wall to help stop erosion from a river running alongside the orphanage.
“These projects are a key way we can have an impact on the community in a way that leaves a positive impression of the U.S. on the people that will last for a generation or more,” said Lt. Joseph Mayer, Comstock’s command chaplain.
The orphanage was started after the 2004 tsunami that devastated the area to assist families and children that no longer had the means to support themselves. There are currently 26 children at Home and Life living as a large family under the supervision of five adults.
“Community involvement is something that has been part of my life since I was a child, and it has carried over to my Navy career,” said Chief (select) Information Systems Technician Shantishra Williams. “I participate because it feels good to give back to more communities than just my own, and help empower others just as I have been empowered through community involvement.”
The COMSERV volunteers also helped weed the orphanage garden, assisted with an ongoing construction project, and lent a hand in painting a new building on the grounds.
“It opens up the lanes of communication and friendship,” said Chief (select) Boatswain’s Mate Michael Chatman. “Both sides learn and benefit from COMSERV projects and it gives our Sailors and Marines an opportunity to have a better understanding of the culture and to have respect for it.”
The participants also had a chance to interact with the children and were treated to a dance performance, as well as playing games and swimming in the local river.
“My favorite part was the smiles I saw on the faces of the children when we arrived to help them,” said Chief (select) Quartermaster Michael Leer. “They made the trip by just saying thank you and really meaning it.”
It was widely agreed that the event was a good way to spend liberty time while in Thailand.
“I believe it was a success,” said Mayer. “We accomplished a lot of work, intermingled with the children, and had a positive experience. I only wish we could have done more while we were there.”
Comstock and Green Bay, as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (BOXARG), are underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations during a Western Pacific deployment.