USS Saipan, 26th MEU(SOC) team up for community relations

31 Jul 2000 | Cpl. Derek Shoemake 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

With their own sweat, LCDR Arthur Brown and twenty-seven other Marines and Sailors from USS Saipan and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) helped give back to Spain.

That giving back came in the form of lending a helping held to two local chapters of Spain's Proyecto Hombre, one of that country's largest drug rehabilitation centers.

"It's important that we give something to the host nations in which we port," said Brown, USS Saipan's Command Chaplain. "It's an act of goodwill and it lets them know we appreciate all the support they give us."

When a Naval vessel, such as USS Saipan, pulls into a foreign port, the foreign government will often times provide anything from additional pier security to simply welcoming the service members into their cities and towns.

According to Pep Luis, administrator with Proyecto Hombre, the Marines and Sailors did more than just pay back that hospitality.

At the first center, half of the Marines and Sailors spent their afternoon helping plant greenery and put some fresh paint on old walls. At the other center, the second group spent their day climbing three flights of stairs bearing tiles that will eventually serve as a new roof to the nearly 200-year old building.

"They've been a constant help," said Luis. "We have an all volunteer staff so we're always grateful."

The 26th MEU(SOC) and USS Saipan are only part of the U.S. Military's assistance to Proyect Hombre. According to Sandy Whittaker, Morale, Welfare and Recreation official who overseas the community relations project, almost every American force that ports in Spain assists in some type of local outreach.

"It's an enormous team effort," she said, "and word really gets around. The fact that these guys are out here volunteering their time to people they've never met says a lot about the United States. People notice that."

However, for many, the reasons to help are simple.

"We did a good deed today," said LtCmdr. Joseph Scordo, 26th MEU(SOC) Chaplain. "We served God and our fellow man and that's always a great thing."

It won't be the Marines' and Sailors' last good deed. According to Brown, the 26th MEU(SOC) and USS Saipan will perform some type of community relations project at every port they visit.