NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- While visiting Naples, Italy during Summer Pulse '04, several Sailors from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)(HST) dedicated some of their liberty time July 5 to a community relations (COMREL) project sponsored by the ship's Command Religious Ministries Department (CRMD).
This community relations project went out to help the Carmelite Nuns restore some of the beauty of the rustic 17th Century Auore Carmelitane Missionarie. The Truman team came together to complete a variety of handy-work around the missionary including painting and gardening.
"We had a total of 22 people come and help out at the COMREL project. Seventeen of them were volunteers and the other four were CRMD staff," said Lt. LeRoy Mack III, CRMD division officer. "With everyone in civilian clothes, it was just a bunch of people coming together to help and serve someone else."
"I do COMREL every time we pull into a port," said Capt. David Thomas Jr., commander, Destroyer Squadron 26. "It was great to be out with Truman shipmates to give back to the Naples community who welcomed us with open arms."
"It was a child care center attached to an old church. The church was like a mini-Sistine Chapel," said Thomas. "There were a lot of paintings and frescoes and it was run by nuns from around the world. Being there I got a sense of a world community."
"We painted five different spaces," said Mack. "Some storage spaces, rooms of devotion and a portion of the entrance way. (All of the volunteers) were very respectful to each other. Those who were good with handiwork helped out those who weren't."
"We were just about finished and the nuns wanted to offer us lunch, which was really great," said Thomas. "One of the leaders called for five volunteers to finish painting inside the church. Immediately, the five closest people went in to finish the job. Soon everyone was painting. It was like 'we'll all pitch in and finish the job and then go eat.'"
The assistance Truman offered not only helped the nuns but more specifically, the children of the community. Many of the children find this mission a safe place to play and a retreat from the dangers of the city. With Truman's effort, the children should find it more welcoming.
"During July, children will be able to come and play at the convent. The nuns said they would be impressed and would find it more welcoming," said Mack.
The mission is much like an American Boys' and Girls' Club. But unlike America, the games and lives these children lead are much more plain than those of American children.
"There is art work and simple games for the kids to play. There were no swings or basketball. Their fun is very simplistic. Definitely no video games," said Mack.
Truman's COMREL projects are also important as to how the United States is portrayed.
"The purpose is to spread the goodwill of Truman and the United States. It is relationship-building, both personal and professional," said Mack.
In the end, the community relations project was a success.
"We held true to our primary purpose to come to a community and help in some kind of way," said Mack. "It was a great place to go. I hope we left the place better than when we found it."
Truman departed Naples to continue its mission in Summer Pulse '04, which is the simultaneous deployment of seven aircraft carrier strike groups (CSGs). This aggressive deployment posture demonstrates the ability of the Navy to provide credible combat power across the globe, in five theaters, with other U.S., allied, and coalition military forces. Summer Pulse is the Navy's first deployment under its new Fleet Response Plan (FRP).
For more information about Summer Pulse '04, visit the CFFC Web site at www.cffc.navy.mil/summerpulse04.htm or visit the Summer Pulse '04 Navy NewsStand site at www.news.navy.mil/local/pulse04.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.