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NEWS | Feb. 3, 2016

Military Sealift Command Sailors Volunteer at Thailand Orphanage

By Grady Fontana, Military Sealift Command Far East

HUAY YAI, Thailand (NNS) -- Members of Expeditionary Port Unit 111 (EPU 111) participated in a community-relations event at a local Thailand orphanage as part of their civic outreach program during Cobra Gold 2016 (CG-16), Jan. 30.

Eight members of EPU 111 went to the Protection and Development Center (CPDC), which is dedicated to the caring of displaced children, orphans and rescued trafficked children.

"Today we came to deliver some school supplies and spend some time with the kids," said Cmdr. Mark Early, commanding officer and reserve-component Sailor, EPU 111. "We played some soccer and played some games, and all the kids seemed to have a really good time."

In the prior days, members of EPU 111 voluntarily raised enough funds to purchase much needed school supplies, toys and snacks to give to about 70 children at CPDC, who range in age from 4 to 17.

The CPDC is located inland about 12 miles southeast of the Sattahip Port in Chuk Samet, Thailand, which is where the EPU is posted conducting exercise port operations training.

Surge Sealift, Roll-on/Roll-off ship USNS Maj. Stephen W. Pless (T-AK 3007) just completed an offload of equipment that will be used during CG-16. A second Military Sealift Command vessel, USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), is scheduled to arrive in the coming days to offload additional CG-16 gear.

During a break in between offloads, the members EPU 111 took advantage of the lull in operations and decided to visit the orphanage and learn a little more about Thai culture.

"It's always good to give back to the community," said Early. "There's nothing like getting to know the local culture than getting engaged and involved in the local community."

This community outreach event was an opportunity to help local children, however the event was equally important to the Sailors.

"We wouldn't have seen this part of the country or their culture if we hadn't conducted this event," said Early. "This was an opportunity to immerse the member of the EPU into Thai culture. For most, this was their first time in Thailand."

During the three-hour evolution, the children were separated into two groups; one group played soccer and the other group played a variety of playground-type games that often lead to many laughs, cheers and yells of encouragement that were fostered by the EPU members, the facility volunteers and the children.

"These kids enjoy these visits very much," said Maria Cissah J. Carñaveral, volunteer coordinator at CPDC. "Once they see us setting up the gymnasium, they know that volunteers are coming and they get very excited."

This community relation event allowed for one member of the EPU to pause and take an introspective view of the morning event.

"You know that these kids are coming from poverty-stricken homes, some of them from abusive homes," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Chase, logistics and supply, and reserve-component Sailor with EPU 111. "Just to see that little bit of joy in their face was very meaningful to me. So far, the visit to the orphanage was the best part of the visit to Thailand."

Chase recalled one boy who developed a fondness toward him.

"He just kind of stayed glued to me for the majority of the time," said Chase, from Shamrock, Texas. "To him, it didn't seem like he was too concerned about what we were doing, I think he just enjoyed having some social interaction with an adult. Giving out the school supplies and toys was nice, but the interaction with the kids was the best part."

EPU 111 is a reserve unit based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and conducts expeditionary port operations in support of operations and contingencies. There are 17 EPU units under the control of MSC.

Thailand and the U.S. are scheduled to co-host the annual, multilateral Exercise CG-16 in various areas throughout the Kingdom of Thailand Feb. 9-19. This year's CG-16 will consist of three primary events -- a command post exercise, which includes a senior leader seminar, humanitarian civic assistance projects in Thai communities, and a field training exercise that will build regional relationships.

For more information, photos, and stories about the CG-16, including past iterations, please visit the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ExerciseCobraGold.

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