MANGILAO DISTRICT, Guam (NNS) -- USS Higgins (DDG 76) Sailors gave back to their Chamorro hosts by participating in two community relations projects during a Guam port visit Feb. 11-14.
Twenty-four Sailors from the guided-missile destroyer provided animal care to dogs and cats at the Guam Animals-In-Need (GAIN) shelter. GAIN is a shelter-based humane society whose charitable purposes include the prevention of cruelty to animals, education of the public concerning animal welfare and the implementation and enforcement of good laws pertaining to animals.
The volunteers performed yardwork, painting and cleaning throughout the shelter grounds. They also walked, bathed, and played with the dogs, cats, kittens and puppies. The work done by Higgins Sailors helped to create a more favorable environment for many homeless animals available for adoption.
"I like the idea of our command lending a hand to the native people of the area we are visiting," said Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SW) Eric Simmons, who participated in the GAIN community relations project. "It shows that we not only come to their island to have fun, relax and unwind, but also to show our thanks and gratitude to them for having us here. To be a part of community relations is a fantastic way to convey that message to [the people of Guam]."
Fourteen Sailors participated in beautification projects in areas surrounding city office's, including the office of Mangilao Mayor Nito Blas.
Volunteers constructed a retaining wall to prevent mudslides and erosion from impacting a little-league baseball field. Additionally, Higgins crew members knocked down two dilapidated structures to rid the children's playground of potential hazards.
Upon completion of the project and over a home-cooked lunch served up by Blas and council members. Engineman 3rd Class Marcus Briggans summed up the general feelings of his shipmates.
"I could go back [to the ship] and feel good about what I've done," he said.
The local residents who were helped by the community relations project were not the only ones who benefited; the Sailors were both inspired and humbled that they could help make the lives of their new friends a little bit easier.
"Though the work itself was hard, probably the most rewarding thing about it was seeing the kids laughing and waving at me from across the street," said Fire Controlman Seaman Juan Gonzalez, one of the volunteers. "I couldn't help but want to do more."
All events were scheduled and organized by Chief Information Technician (SW) Beau Butler and Storekeeper 2nd Class Jaclyn Harden, Higgins' community relations coordinators.
"Every time I'm on a community relations project with my crew my buttons burst with the pride of knowing how incredibly dedicated they are to placing others above self, and ultimately, forging trust and cooperation abroad," said Cmdr. Winton Smith, the ship's commanding officer, adding that these are key elements of the Navy's new Maritime Strategy.
Higgins is currently deployed with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and is operating in the U. S. 7th Fleet operating area. Operating in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, the 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed fleets with approximately 50 ships, 120 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any given time.
The Nimitz CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. Terry Blake, is comprised of Commander, CSG-11, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz; its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11; embarked Destroyer Squadron 23; the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59); the guided-missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53), USS Higgins (DDG 76), and USS Chafee (DDG 90); Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 "Scorpions," HSL 37 "Easy Riders"; and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11.
CVW-11's squadrons include the "Tophatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, the "Black Aces" of VFA-41, the "Sunliners" of VFA-81, the "Wallbangers" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron 117, the "Red Devils" of Marine Corps Strike Fighter Squadron 232, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Warfare Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6.
For more news from USS Higgins, visit www.navy.mil/local/ddg76/.