ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- As the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) completed the trans-Atlantic portion of its deployment this month, the ships of Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group temporarily disbursed to separate ports of call in the Mediterranean Sea to re-supply and afford Marines and sailors an opportunity to enjoy themselves and spread some good will to parts of the region.
While the strike group flag ship, the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) ported in Palma de Majorca, Spain, the ship landing dock USS Ashland (LSD 48) continued to the island of Malta. The amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15) headed for Augusta Bay, Sicily. All three ships implemented plans for community service projects at their respective ports.
On the island of Majorca, about 60 Marines and sailors from the USS Kearsarge spent two days working on facilities maintenance and renovation work at two locations for Projecte Home, a substance abuse recovery center near Palma.
Marines and sailors from the Ashland volunteered two days to help charitable organizations on Malta. First they provided some needed repairs and cleanup at St. Paul's Home in Hamrun, Malta. St. Paul's Home is a facility run by the Little Sisters of the Poor foundation that provides living accommodations for elderly citizens of Malta who do not have the means to care for themselves.
On the second day, the volunteers visited a young women's hostel in Sliema, Malta to help the Sister's of Fatima with grounds maintenance there.
From USS Ponce, 16 Marines and sailors put in more than 60 man-hours working in Floridia, Sicily at the "Instituto di Beneficenza" orphanage. The troops painted playground equipment and fences, pulled several bags of weeds from the driveway and removed trash and debris from the playground area, all to the delight of the children there.
The chaplains' offices of the respective ships coordinated the community service projects.
According to a local newspaper report in Palma, this type of goodwill has become common in recent years when Navy ships pull into port.
One sailor from the Ponce was very clear in his reason for helping at the orphanage. "I wanted to volunteer because my grandmother grew up in an orphanage just like this during World War II when both of her parents died. If it wasn't for places like this, I wouldn't be here today," he said.
With the port calls complete, the Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU and Kearsarge ESG boarded their ships and steamed forward in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
For more information, stories and photos on the 26th MEU (SOC), log on to www.26meu.usmc.mil.