Truman sailors exceed expectations during community relations project

MARSEILLE, France — Crew members from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) performed more than 900 hours of community service during a recent port visit to Marseille, France, June 9-12.

Truman sailors and Marines volunteered for a total of six community relations (COMREL) projects in three days.

The projects included repair and grounds-keeping work at schools and churches and even helping to build an internet cafe for merchant sailors.

Approximately 100 crew members volunteered their liberty time to participate in the events, said Navy Cmdr. Jerome Hinson, Truman's command chaplain.

"This crew's enthusiasm for volunteering in Marseille exceeded that of any I have seen anywhere in my 16 years in the Navy," said Hinson. "That is part of the Truman way of doing business."

Regarding the COMREL projects, the feedback from both sailors and the local community has been very positive, said Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class (AW/SW) Andres Rejos, the petty officer-in-charge of COMREL projects for Truman.

"When we complete projects for these communities, they always say they want us to come back," said Rejos. "That is why I continue to volunteer."

Rejos added that it is important for the host nation to see that, although the Truman is a warship, Sailors and Marines are willing to help build communities and relationships.

One of the COMREL projects involved sailors working on a recreation facility and playing football with students at Margalhan Middle School in Marseille. Upon arriving at the school, the sailors were greeted by students singing U.S. songs. Many of the students asked sailors for autographs.

The reception and excitement at Margalhan helped reinforce reasons for volunteering for many sailors, said Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Mel'lisa Maiden, a Truman sailor who regularly participates on COMREL projects regularly.

"It makes me feel great to give back to the communities, especially when they are so welcoming," said Maiden.

Sailors spent the first part of the day teaching the students to play football. The game was followed by projects to remove gravel from a basketball court and the refurbishment of students' lockers.

When the work was complete, the school's chef served a beef stew to Truman sailors and their new friends. After the meal, sailors went inside classrooms and spent time answering questions for the students and helping them with their English.

For Andre Malgouyres, headmaster at Margalhan, the project was a total success. The students are from culturally diverse backgrounds, and seeing the cultural integration of U.S. sailors gave the students a great perspective on their own diversity, said Malgouyres.

Yasmine Boukoult, a student at Marhalhan, said the visit was a very special day for the students.

"It was fascinating for us. We were really happy to receive the Americans," said Boukoult.

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