By Grady Fontana, MSC-Far East Public Affairs
RAYONG PROVINCE, Thailand (NNS) -- During a scheduled stop here to conduct routine voyage repair (VR) July 7-16, civilian mariners (CIVMARs) from the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO 193) took the opportunity to visit the local communities in the surrounding area to build relationships.
Over the course of about a week, volunteers from the USNS Walter S. Diehl, the chaplain from MSC Far East and local supporters participated in four community relations (COMREL) events that benefited three communities, four primary schools and a hospital.
"By taking the time to meet with the local people and distribute much needed supplies, we are helping strengthen the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand," said Navy Lt. Glen D. Kitzman, chaplain, MSCFE. "These COMREL events enhance the image of MSC and USNS vessels while benefiting the local agencies in the Pattaya, Sriracha and Chantabury region."
During the first COMREL event, Kitzman, eight CIVMARs, five Thai Rotary Club members and the president of U.S. Navy League volunteered delivering and distributing one pallet of hygiene and medical materials from USNS Walter S. Diehl to the Pluakdang Hospital and School, which was located in the vicinity of Pattaya. This school was chosen because it was remotely located and it doesn't typically receive donations, according to Kitzman.
The volunteers interacted with more than 400 children and school faculty members at Pluakdang.
"I've been coming to Thailand and interacting with the local people for a while now, since 1982 when I was on active duty," said Allen Sallier, CIVMAR communications officer, USNS Walter S. Diehl. "I enjoy giving back and supporting the schools."
During the second COMREL event, the crew traveled to Nikom 3 School here and shared a different method of English lessons to about 210 children. The MSC volunteers used innovative music strategies and creative methods to teach English. This was an opportunity to exchange effective and rich dialogue between U.S. volunteers and Thai teachers and students.
Sallier, a retired Navy chief petty officer and former aviation electronics technician said he takes every opportunity to meet and greet with the people of Thailand. "In my 24-year-career I've participated in more than 30 COMREL events."
The third COMREL event, Kitzman and the CIVMARs partnered with a local hotel in Pattaya and travelled to Sriracha to volunteer their time at the Bantunglaham School in order paint the school's common areas with patterns and symbols that provided a colorful teaching tool for school children to learn colors and numbers.