McCampbell Sailors Make a Difference on Singapore Beaches


Story Number: NNS060613-07Release Date: 6/13/2006 4:03:00 PM
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By Ensign Paco Ramirez, USS McCampbell Public Affairs

SINGAPORE (NNS) -- Twenty USS McCampbell (DDG 85) Sailors spent the morning of June 5 participating in a community service project to benefit the Waterways Watch Society, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Singapore's internal waterways.

Sailors started their morning on the banks of the Singapore River, becoming indoctrinated on the history and objectives of the society.

"Our goal is not only to preserve the environment, but to really educate Singaporeans on the importance of keeping our rivers and streams clean," said Eugene Heng, the society's chairman and founder.

The organization was founded in 1998 with only 27 members and the spirit of environmental conscientiousness. The Waterways Watch Society has since grown to more than 100 members and has vastly increased its ability to clean up beaches, educate Singaporeans and hold monthly environmental camps for school children.

"We've increased from a few hundred kids going through our programs annually to an average of 2,000 kids a year," said Heng. "Our goal is to get 5,000 students a year through our camps and classes."

"I think it's awesome for people to see them out on boat patrols and get educated on what [Waterways Watch Society members] are trying to do," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Becky Lohman, from Zumbrota, Minn. "School-age programs are also a great idea. It's easier to start them off young."

On June 5, World Environment Day, Sailors were asked to attack the bigger challenges such as large rocks and submerged tree limbs. Many large pieces of debris had littered the beach for years, and society members had not been able to move the big rocks and branches because most of their volunteers were children.

"I think our contribution was considerable because we brought the physical strength they didn't have," said Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Rodrick Givens, from Los Angeles. "They said they had saved the big jobs for us. It feels good knowing they could rely on us to get it done."

Students from the Mayflower Secondary School of Singapore joined McCampbell Sailors in their efforts, focusing on collecting litter and smaller pieces of debris.

"It was great to have the kids of Singapore there, because you get to see what they're like, and the fact that they were helping worked out great," said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Apprentice Danny Zepeda, from Ontario, Calif.

"The highlight was working with the kids," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Kevin Lebahn, from Spokane, Wash. "They were shy at first, but they became very friendly and weren't afraid to joke around with us. They asked a lot about the Navy, the ship and the United States. They were really supportive of us and asked when we were coming back again."

The community service project was coordinated with the support of Commander, Logistics Group, Western Pacific chaplain's staff based in Singapore.

"We've coordinated over 20 [events] for ships all over the area, helping orphanages, hospitals and the elderly," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Eugene Trinidad. "But we wanted to do a project that dealt with the environment for McCampbell."

After cleaning the beaches, Sailors shared lunch with the students and Waterways Watch staff members.

"This is the first American group that not only came for the orientation but also to participate in the cleaning effort," said Heng. "We certainly appreciate this partnership with the U.S. Navy and the opportunity to learn from each other. We look forward to more visits from you and more opportunities to work together."

"We couldn't be prouder of our crew members for dedicating some of their very limited liberty in this port to build new ties with our Singaporean friends," said Lt Cmdr. Steve Prescott, McCampbell's executive officer. "It's also very fortunate McCampbell had such an excellent opportunity to display our commitment to environmental preservation on World Environment Day."

Homeported in San Diego, McCampbell is currently conducting a routine deployment in the Western Pacific.

For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.

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