PHUKET, Thailand (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) anchored off Phuket, Thailand, June 2-5, giving the crew an opportunity to show some hospitality to the Thai people by participating in community service projects and donating several thousand dollars' worth of supplies from Project Handclasp.
Project Handclasp enables U.S. Navy ships to carry donated supplies and essential items to places in need when they deploy from the United States.
Along with USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), Decatur visited Phuket as part of a routine port visit in the Western Pacific. Although Decatur had been underway for 42 days and only stayed in Phuket for three, Decatur Sailors used their liberty time to interact with the local community and help them with a number of activities.
June 4, Decatur's Sailors arrived at Life Home Project, ready with paint and paint brushes. The project provides a nurturing environment for HIV-positive women and their children, some of whom have HIV as well. It also provides assistance to several orphaned children who lived through the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004.
A discolored classroom, where the children attended pre-school, was quickly transformed after only a few hours. Moving aside the shelves and bookcases, Sailors worked together to brighten the inside with cheerful light blue paint.
"The opportunity to serve at the Life Home Project really gave me a view of how another side of society lives, one that many of us might not come into contact with that often," said Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Nicholas K. Edmiston.
In addition to painting, Sailors also brought with them numerous supplies as part of Project Handclasp, including shampoo, soap, Band-Aids, and other basic hygiene products.
Patong Child Care Center, which assists neglected and abused children, was another facility that benefited from these supplies.
Lt. Cmdr. Cameron Fish, Destroyer Squadron 7 chaplain, orchestrated Decatur's involvement and was clearly moved by the opportunity to help so many women and children, but he was also impressed with the selflessness of the ship's crew.
"Most of these Sailors had only two days of liberty," said Fish, "and they still volunteered to do these projects on one of their days off. While I'm well aware of the selflessness of the men and women of Decatur and of the U.S. Navy, it's still fantastic to see such enthusiasm for this kind of outreach."
Decatur, commanded by Cmdr. John Steinberger of Lindenwold, N.J., departed its homeport of San Diego Jan. 4, as part of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. Spending significant time off the coast of the Horn of Africa, the strike group conducted maritime security operations with the Pakistani-led Combined Task Force 150. In the North Arabian Sea, it supported the French-led Combined Task Force 473 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.