ABOARD USS RUSSELL (NNS) -- More than 60 Sailors assigned to the Pearl Harbor based USS Russell (DDG 59) donated their time, Oct. 23 and 24, helping with relief efforts directed towards the victims of the wildfires that raged throughout Southern California.
The Aegis guided-missile destroyer has been in port at Naval Base San Diego since Oct. 15, and is making preparations to participate in Composite Training Unit Exercise, a large scale series of training scenarios with the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group.
Many San Diego based military members and their families were forced to evacuate their homes as a precautionary measure should the fires spread to their neighborhood. Both the Naval Base San Diego and Naval Base Coronado set up evacuation centers designed to help those that fled their homes.
Russell, along with several other ships in port, sent volunteers to help Naval Base San Diego personnel set up the Military Evacuation Center located at the Admiral Prout Sports Complex.
The volunteers immediately went to work assisting with getting the military members checked in. Families began arriving on Oct. 22 carrying what little belongings they could quickly pack, and many even brought their pets.
Russell Sailors performed a variety of tasks to accommodate the families. The gym, fitness center, and racquetball courts were all converted into evacuation centers with over 300 cots. Donations of food, water, toiletries lined the gymnasium as other Sailors and family members dropped of supplies for the evacuees.
Russell crew members assembled the cots, helped carry donations to the centers, and assisting with general duties such as general cleanliness and sorting relief goods. Many Sailors worked over 12 hours of off-duty time making sure that operations within the center functioned smoothly.
When asked, most of Russell's Sailors said they volunteered in large numbers due to the fact that they felt a civic responsibility to help those in need.
"I just wanted to do my part to help," said Seamen Zachary Frith. "I know that if I were in that position, I would want that help too."
While at the center, Lt.j.g. Tim Letts, Russell's auxiliary officer "established a system to track all volunteers and equally distributed them to shift rotation," said Senior Chief Electrician's Mate Bienvenido Go, from Naval Base San Diego port operations.
"He made a huge turnaround on the order of the operation," added Go.
Russell Sailors and their shipmates from other commands worked throughout the night and well into the following day to support the relief efforts.
"I thought it was great to go out and be a part of the community, helping those in need," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Steven Johndrow.
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