USS PEARL HARBOR, At Sea (NNS) -- Partnership of the Americas Task Group 40.0 got underway May 14 after a successful 3-day visit to Puerto Belgrano, Argentina, marking the end of UNITAS Atlantic phase 48-07.
Over the weekend, several Task Group 40.0 Sailors reached out to the local citizens during a community relations event at the Casa Del Nino Children's Shelter.
Casa Del Nino is the only children's shelter in the town of Punta Alta, and houses 24 children ranging from 2 to 12 years of age. The home is supported solely by donations, and employees are all volunteers.
"It was an awesome chance to reach out to the community and lend a helping hand," said Cryptologic Technician 1st Class Nicholas Lawson from USS Mitscher (DDG 57). "The look on the kids' faces when they were playing with their new toys was something I will never forget."
In addition to delivering gifts to the children, participating Sailors from USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), Mitscher and USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58)mowed the lawn and performed beautification tasks on the property surrounding the shelter.
"Although it was great to help out with property maintenance," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class John Brann from Samuel B. Roberts. "It was much more rewarding for everyone who came out today to see these kids' spirits lifted by our presence."
Argentina Navy Capt. Ricardo Enrique Meza expressed his gratitude to the 40 Sailors who participated in the community relations project.
"The Sailors wanted to do something good, they wanted to make a difference," said Meza. "Not only have they made a difference, but they also left a mark on us forever, and that is a mark of friendship between us that will never fade."
According to Lt. Dennis Wheeler, Pearl Harbor's command chaplain, more than $1,000 in donations were raised by the U.S. ships for contribution to the shelter.
While some Sailors chose to engage in community relations at the children's shelter, others chose to strengthen international relations during the friendly competitions ranging from marksmanship to a soccer tournament between partner nations.
Despite a second place finish in the soccer tournament, Pearl Harbor remained the overall point winner when the competitions concluded.
"It was a good way to enjoy the port as well as an excellent opportunity to enhance relations with other nations," said Gunner's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Eric Schwarzman from Pearl Harbor, who participated in the shooting competition.
"I was happy to win, but I was happier just to participate with Sailors from our partner countries."
The weekend events were wrapped up during a closing ceremony where Argentine Surface Fleet Commander Admiral Antonio Torres declared UNITAS Atlantic 48-07 phase an outstanding success and congratulated all who came together and worked collectively during the exercise.
Partnership of the Americas Task Group 40.0 is deployed to support UNITAS 48-07 and consists of dock landing ship Pearl Harbor, guided-missile destroyer Mitscher, guided-missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts and Chilean frigate CS Almirante Latorre (FFG 14).
POA 2007 is a U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command deployment designed to focus on enhancing relationships with regional partner nations through a variety of exercises and events at sea and on shore throughout South America and the Caribbean.
For more information U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and Partnership of the Americas 2007, visit http://www.cusns.navy.mil.
For more news from USS Pearl Harbor, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/lsd52/.