VALPARAISO, Chile (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to guided-missile frigates USS Boone (FFG 28) and USS Thach (FFG 43) performed a community outreach project at a local school June 25, in Valparaiso, Chile, as part of the Pacific phase (PAC) of UNITAS 52.
Twenty-seven Sailors from the two ships joined dozens of sailors from Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia to repaint hallways and interact with children at the Escuela Juan de Saaveverda.
"We are very grateful to have the participants of UNITAS come to our school and help improve the building," said Monica Meriy, director of Escuela Juan de Saavedra. "The Sailors are helping more than just the students because the entire community uses the building and its large cour-tyard for all kinds of events."
Escuela Juan de Saavedra was started in 1900 and is named after the founder of Valparaiso. The current building was opened in 1930 and is located near the original settlement and heart of the city, which is on a hillside over-looking the harbor. The school serves disabled and low-income students from the local area.
U.S. Sailors worked on one end of the second floor hallway which was open to the courtyard below, while other sailors worked to finish the interior hallway and stairwells.
"I enjoy meeting with the sailors from other navies and working together for a common goal," said Operations Specialist 1st Class Bryant Gause, of Boone. "You get to communicate directly and share the experience on a personal level, instead of trying to communicate from one ship to another when we are at sea."
Kids from the local neighborhoods also gathered at the school to meet the sailors. While one group of U.S. Sailors painted, another group gave the kids soccer balls and played a game of soccer with them.
"Traditionally, UNITAS has always supported the community with civil events such as this," said Chilean navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard Bergquist, UNITAS community relations coordinator. "We want the community to know that we are here to do more than military exercises. We are here to sup-port the communities and build relationships amongst the navies at the same time."
The school also invited a magician, a girls' gymnastic team and women's dance group to entertain and interact with the sailors. After soccer, the U.S. Sailors joined the dance group for traditional Chilean and South American-style dances. The navies of Peru, Ecuador and Columbia met with the girls' gymnastics team and took group photos.
"It's good to show that we are more than just a visiting Navy," said Seaman Apprentice Rodney Blakney, of USS Thach. "I had a great time giving something to the community. There was a lot of energy here and the people were very appreciative."
Once the work was done, the sailors meet on a terrace, in front of the school, overlooking the city. They exchanged stories and took group pictures with the Valparaiso cityscape in the background.
"The goal was to come together, get to know each other and share," said Pablo Zuniga, governor of Valparaiso Province. "This is a meaningful place to come together. It's the heart of Valparaiso and is rich with tradition and wonderful people."
The six-week Chilean-American naval partnership and UNITAS PAC are part of Southern Seas 2011. Southern Seas is an annual six-month deployment focused on building relationships with the navies of the Americas to strengthen regional maritime security.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principal-ly sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
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