LARNACA, Cyprus (NNS) -- Sailors from USS Ponce (LPD 15) and embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) volunteered for community relations (COMREL) outreach programs June 13 in Larnaca, Cypress.
More than 40 Sailors and Marines put aside their liberty time to work with members of the local community and restore Grace Church of Larnaca and Saint Georges Special Needs School.
"COMRELs give each crew member the opportunity to help and realize how fortunate their circumstances are, regardless of where we come from," said Ponce Command Master Chief Yves Raynaud. "It gives our 'Proud Lions' a new outlook on life and the world."
At Saint Georges, 38 volunteers shared the task of painting classrooms and picnic benches, trimming trees and removing unsightly weeds from the school grounds.
"This project was a great opportunity for strategic partnership building for the United States," said Ponce's supply officer, Lt. Chester Morgan. "It also continues the long tradition of the Navy and the Marine Corps of giving back to the community."
At Grace Church of Larnaca Cyprus, eight Sailors and Marines, along with local church members, painted and cleaned throughout the church.
"The project was completed with the church members, allowing great cultural exchange and fellowship," said Lt. Edward Bass, Ponce's command chaplain. "We broke for a delicious home-prepared lunch that the church families made for us...we got to know one another and exchange stories."
The following day, many of the Sailor and Marine volunteers made their way back to Grace Church for Sunday worship service.
Ponce deployed from Norfolk May 13 as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BATARG) to support maritime security operations, provide crisis response capability, and increase theater security cooperation and forward naval presence in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf areas of operation.
The BATARG is comprised of multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and amphibious transport dock ship Ponce.
For more news from USS Ponce (LPD 15) visit www.navy.mil/local/lpd15/.