USS Makin Island
“Gung Ho”
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Story Number: NNS090209-08

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Glenn S. Robertson, Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island Public Affairs

-- Sailors from Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Makin Island (LHD 8) volunteered at the 30th annual Gaultier Men's Club Carnival Jan. 31 at the Jackson County Civic Center in Pascagoula.

The Gautier Men's Club invited the Sailors to be part of the ceremony for the Mardi Gras event, themed "Lost in the 50's Tonight."

The ceremony began at 7 p.m. with a moment of silence for deployed American service members. The Sailors then formed a security line the length of the ballroom, ensuring the crowd didn't press onto the floor while the official party was announced.

Last year's "king" and "queen" were the first to take their place, walking the ballroom floor and sitting upon their thrones. Immediately following were the dukes and duchesses, who found their spots surrounding King Altama and Queen Anola XXIX. The still-masked Altama and Anola XXX, whose identities were kept secret until the ceremony, were next in line. They arrived at the thrones and took those spots from the incumbent royalty. They were then unmasked, their identities no longer secret, and the festivities began shortly after.

This is not the first time Sailors have been involved in the event, as the club usually extends an invitation to the military community when and if there are any service members stationed in the area, according to Becky Martin, executive assistant to Capt. Robert Kopas, Makin Island's commanding officer.

"I had a blast," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Randall Turner. "From the moment I walked in the door to the minute I left, I had a fantastic time. I've already signed up [for a similar event] next week."

"I think it really gives the [Makin Island's crew] an opportunity to see what the Mardi Gras season is really all about," said Chief Gas Turbine Technician (Electrical) (SW) Jeffrey Brotherton. "Most people tend to think of Mardi Gras as what they see on TV from New Orleans. I like it when [the crew] is involved because it allows our Sailors an opportunity to experience a unique Southern tradition and be thanked for the sacrifices they make as a member of the armed forces."

The Gautier Men's Club is involved in several charitable efforts, including offering scholarships to eligible individuals in the local area and aiding financially distressed members of the community, according to Martin.

The ship's crew has been involved with several volunteer efforts, specifically programs aimed at helping local area children. This is also the second year Makin Island Sailors have volunteered for Mardi Gras events in the area.

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