Stennis Strengthens International Friendship in Thailand

Story Number: NNS090413-06Release Date: 4/13/2009 1:40:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elliott Fabrizio

USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors from John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group visited Laem Chabang, Thailand, for a scheduled port visit April 9-13.

More than 70 Sailors used their liberty time to volunteer with the strike group's community service projects. The strike group organized five programs that totaled more than 1,700 community service hours during the four-day visit.

"Thailand and the U.S. Navy have had a strong history of cooperation," said Stennis Commanding Officer Capt. Joseph Kuzmick. "Liberty is a mission for the crew, and Sailors act as diplomats for the Navy and the United States when they go out on liberty and engage in friendly interactions with the local population."

Community service projects included spending time with blind children, visiting a center for the elderly and cleaning a beach.

"Coming to a place like this is a rare opportunity, and volunteering is just my way of showing gratitude to the people of Thailand for allowing us to be here," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW) Elyver Pandile, a Stennis dental technician.

The strike group's spirit of volunteerism further strengthened Thailand's friendship with America by reminding the community of the type of compassionate people who make up the Navy.

"The community is very pro-America here in Thailand," said Peter Thorand, charter president in Thailand for the Navy League of the United States. "The people here love the hard work that the Sailors do for the community and always welcome Sailors warmly whenever they volunteer for community service projects."

Sailors also took advantage of the opportunity to experience Thai culture, and many Sailors did so through Stennis' Morale, Welfare and Recreation-sponsored tours.

"I went out on the elephant-riding tour and had a blast," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class (SW) Nicholas Docter. "I think it's important for Sailors to get out and experience these things because it makes the visit really memorable, and you never know if you'll ever see a place like this again."

After approximately three weeks at sea, this port visit was a chance for Sailors to relax and enjoy Thailand's culture, cuisine and tropical beaches while fostering relationships between America and Thailand.

"We're part of the international community," said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Pablo Monroy, strike group community relations coordinator. "When the people of Thailand see us out here volunteering in their community, eating their food and taking an interest in their culture, we show Sailors are a kind-hearted group of people, and we are dedicated to supporting the international community."

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