USS Shoup (DDG 86) completed a five-day, scheduled port visit in Saipan, Nov. 14.
While in Saipan, Sailors had the opportunity to participate in three different community relations (COMREL) projects. The projects, organized by Command Chaplain Lt. Nahum Melendez, were held at American Memorial Park, Garapan Elementary School, and aboard USS Shoup.
“Every time we execute a port visit, the goal is to provide opportunities for our Sailors to give back,” said Melendez. “This happens in collaboration with the host team who look for the best locations where our Sailors can use their skills to enhance someone else’s work, education or living space. Sailors always look for exciting activities to do at every port visit. In exchange, we enhance diplomatic partnerships and represent the USA at the highest level.”
American Memorial Park is centrally located along the western shoreline of Saipan, adjacent to downtown Garapan.
During the event, Sailors participated in a Memorial Day celebration honoring the US servicemen, and Chamorro and Carolinian civilians, who were killed during the Marianas Campaign of World War II that took place on Saipan, Tinian, and the Philippine Sea in 1944. Afterward, they had the opportunity to meet with several veterans for conversation and to exchange sea stories.
“Saipan is a wonderful island with plenty of friendship, kindness and compassion,” said Melendez. “The locals are very welcoming and the historic sites make this island a jewel in the middle of the Pacific. At the American Memorial Park, more than 200 people gathered to honor the fallen, and USS Shoup Sailors wore their summer whites to honor all veterans past, present and future. The ceremony was attended by the governor himself.”
Garapan Elementary School opened in 1967 and was relocated to its current location in the western-central section of Saipan in 1968 after a devastating typhoon struck the island. The school serves the villages of Garapan, Upper and Lower Navy Hill, Chinatown, Puerto Rico, and Northern Gualo Rai, and consists of 610 students.
“I volunteered to show the island of Saipan that there are people out here that truly care about the well-being of the island and its personnel,” said Chief Petty Officer Angel Marte, from Chicago. “I feel as if we helped to strengthen the image of the school by helping the students out the same way the students help out the surrounding towns.”
Volunteers from Shoup spent the morning at the school reading to students and doing touch-up painting around the campus, contributing the beautification of the school grounds.
While some Sailors were volunteering their liberty time at the elementary school, others were busy with visitors aboard Shoup.
Sailors who chose to participate aboard the ship assisted in the facilitation of three separate tours for the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, a group of sea cadets, and a group of US Marine Corps recruits and Army reservists. Tour groups were escorted to several spaces throughout the ship, from the fo’c’sle to the flight deck, allowing them the opportunity to peer into the life of a U.S. Navy Sailor and get a glimpse of what life is like aboard a Navy vessel.
“We were able to give a first-hand view of how we live on the ship,” said Operations Specialist 2nd class Carl Green from Jacksonville, Florida. We explain different weapon systems that help protect the United States, what we eat, and the places and offices around the ship that make this ship livable.”
Community relations projects like these are held by different commands around the world and serve to strengthen the relationships between the host nation and the U.S. Navy. Melendez considers all three COMRELs to be a success and looks forward to coordinating future COMREL events, whether it be during a port visit or at their homeport in Yokosuka, Japan, giving Shoup Sailors the opportunity to show their appreciation to any community they are a part of.
“My goal is to continue to nurture the importance of selfless giving by giving them opportunity to serve whether at home or away from home,” said Melendez. “These are principles that, though they are executed in short, their impact has an everlasting effect on the future naval leaders.”
Shoup is assigned to Commander, Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force.