BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Armed with gloves and rakes, 25 Sailors from the Ronald Reagan Strike Group (RRSG) rolled up their sleeves to participate in a community relations (COMREL) project March 23 for Sae-Deul-Won in Busan, Republic of Korea.
Right from the start, volunteers said it was a challenging COMREL as the bus chartered to transport the Sailors to the project was too large to negotiate the steep and narrow roads to the facility.
That small setback however, did not dissuade the motivated Sailors as they enthusiastically grabbed their belongings and hiked the steep half-mile hill to their destination.
"The hike was totally worth the effort," said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class (SW) Nicole Frickle. "We came to make a difference in the lives of the children, and the hill was only a small matter."
Once they arrived, the group was introduced to the facility's spokesperson who, through the aid of a translator, gave them their assignments and thanked them for their support. Their task was to be the removal of the year's worth of weeds and undergrowth that surrounded the facility's tennis courts.
Volunteers wasted no time getting started. For more than five hours the volunteers raked, cut and gathered all of the brush and weeds for removal from the property.
According to COMREL participants, when the truck left with the final load of refuse the difference was remarkable. A field once overgrown with weeds, choked by brush, and littered with debris was now clean and groomed. Wild trees whose rogue branches had overrun the fence and spilled into the road were now manicured, thanks to the efforts of the Sailors.
"Even though the work was hard, I didn't mind," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Nikki Zehel. "COMRELs help us build strong relationships with our allies and neighbors and this one in particular helped a group of orphans."
the impressive amount of work was done by volunteers at the orphanage, was only one of six COMREL projects conducted simultaneously around the Busan area.
A total of 155 Sailors from the RRSG volunteered their time on projects ranging from creating a garden at a home for the elderly to cleaning the dining area at a vocational training facility.
"COMRELs help Sailors to realize that there are people in need everywhere in the world, and through service we can connect with the community," said Ronald Reagan command chaplain Cmdr. Brent Scott. "There is a part of being a Sailor which is giving to others, and it's a worthy investment in time."
Ronald Reagan's (CVN 76) port visit to Busan is in conjunction with RRSG's participation in Exercise Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) and Foal Eagle (FE) 2007.
RRSG is comprised of Carrier Strike Group 7 (CCG 7), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), the guided-missile destroyers USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 11, Detachment 15.
Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named after the 40th U.S. president, and carries the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency.
The RRSG departed San Diego on Jan. 27 on a scheduled deployment to fill the role of USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, as it undergoes scheduled maintenance in Yokosuka, Japan.
For more news from the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), visit their Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.