PUNTA ARENAS, Chile (NNS) -- U.S. Sailors from Southern Seas 2011 teamed up with Chilean sailors to re-paint an elementary school in Punta Arenas, Chile, May 23.
Sixteen Sailors from USS Thach (FFG 43) and nine sailors from the Chilean navy spent an afternoon at the Escuela Rio Seco, the smallest public school in Punta Arenas, painting and playing soccer with the school children during a community relations (COMREL) project.
"The kids loved us, and the assistant director and head custodian were very thankful for our help," said Chief Electronics Technician (SW) James Jacobs, USS Thach's Enlisted COMREL Coordinator.
While at the school, the Sailors painted two classrooms as well as the teacher's lounge before they had the opportunity to interact with the children. The children were let out of class to play soccer and talk with the Sailors as they finished painting.
"This was my first COMREL and I really enjoyed being with the kids," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Christopher Barrett. "We had a lot of fun playing soccer."
"The kids warmed up to us immediately," said Ensign David Lovejoy, USS Thach COMREL coordinator. "It helped a lot that we had a native Spanish speaker, Culinary Specialist 1st Class Lucio, who helped interpret for us and is really great with kids."
The U.S. Sailors also handed out candy and Thach stickers from the ship's store to the school children.
"It felt good to just be able to help people," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Hector Centeno. "It's all about the kids."
"Kids are kids and they loved playing soccer and pingpong with the guys," said Jacobs. "My favorite part of the COMREL was when I went to all the guys painting and asked who wanted to be swapped out with soccer players. With maybe one exception, I knew all my painters would rather play soccer than paint, but they chose to stay and paint."
The COMREL was part of the Southern Seas 2011 port visit to Punta Arenas. Thach and USS Boone (FFG 28) visited the city to begin six weeks of exercises with the Chilean navy in order to promote partnership and cooperation.
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