DEDEDO, Guam – Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) cleaned up Tanguissan beach and visited patients of St. Dominic’s Senior Care Center, March 20-21.
The events were community relations (COMREL) projects by Fitzgerald to have a positive impact on the community during a port visit to Guam.
“COMRELs are important because it shows civilians a human element to who we are,” said Senior Chief Logistics Specialist Patrick Rubio, Fitzgerald's COMREL officer. “Having Sailors go out and mingle helps people look beyond the uniform and shows that we are a humanitarian force as well.”
The COMRELs kicked off March 20 with Sailors taking time to remove debris from Tanguissan beach, a local tourist attraction.
“It means a lot to the people of Guam that the Sailors were able to come out and help clean our beaches,” said La’kiesha Pereda, a project manager from the Island Beautification task force. “Not many people have the time to spend their day cleaning the beach and that really helps the tourist industry.”
Fitzgerald Sailors removed more than 20 bags of trash from Tanguissan beach in total, as part of an ongoing effort to beautify Guam.
“There is always more to be done but we made a visible impact which may help encourage others to keep carrying that mantle,” Senior Chief Fire Controlman Jonathan Scott of Fitzgerald. “The beach cleanup was an immeasurable way to boost morale, and combining that with community service says a lot about how we take care of our Sailors.”
Sailors continued to have a positive impact to the community with a visit to St. Dominic’s Elderly Care Center, a local nursing home run by the community’s Catholic Church, March 21.
“One of the best parts about being in the Navy is that it is not just about missions and going out to sea, it’s being able to meet so many different people,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Larissa Hernandez. “Getting the opportunity to interact with and learn from the elderly was a very rewarding experience.”
St. Dominic’s provides long-term care for more than 60 patients, including several patients over one-hundred-years-old.
“You [Sailors] sharing your time with us means the world to the patients here because a lot of the patients’ families no longer visit them,” said Sally Agaland, the activity coordinator for St. Dominic’s. “Our goal is to try to help our patients become more observant, and when people come and interact with them, it really helps their quality of life.”
Along with giving back to the community the COMRELs helped boost morale amongst participants.
“Things like picking up trash and visiting patients in a nursing home is what I feel the Navy is all about,” said Cryptology Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Jeffery Sutton. “It is a great way to spend your time off the ship and every port we go to, I sign up.”
Fitzgerald, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.