USS OAK HILL, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) recently completed its first port visit in Castries, St. Lucia, since departing for its three-month Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2009 deployment.
More than 300 Sailors and Marines, as well as several foreign liaison naval officers (LNOs) from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay, made an impact on the island by participating in community relations (COMREL) and Project Handclasp projects.
As part of Project Handclasp, the crew delivered 37 pallets of sanitary and medical supplies, textbooks and toys to local medical agencies, schools and orphanages.
Oak Hill Chaplain Lt. Robert Bailey said, "It was a chance to give back to the local community and show the true Navy spirit."
"Projects like this display that the Navy is about partnership and friendship," said Bailey. "Whenever we have the opportunity to help others, it gives them a more personal representation of what the Navy is and not what the media tells them."
The crew also had the opportunity to spend time with and mentor approximately 15 boys from the Boys Training Center under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security in Massade, Gros Islet. The crew welcomed the boys aboard for a ship's tour and lunch, then joined the boys back at the center for a game of soccer.
"The COMREL went extremely well," added Bailey. "Having the opportunity to meet with the children, we were able to show them that they can make a change in their lives."
"Wherever the Navy goes, we are American ambassadors," said Capt. Brad Williamson, the commander of the SPS 2009 mission. "Whether we are participating in Project Handclasp or community relations projects, we are not just representing the Navy but everyone back home as well."
Oak Hill is participating in the combined multinational naval and amphibious operational exercise with maritime forces from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay.
Oak Hill is also supporting the multinational amphibious exercise known as Southern Exchange 2009.
For more news from USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), visit www.navy.mil/local/lsd51/.