Demonstrating its friendship with the Romanian people and interest in the security and stability of the Black Sea region, the United States’ sent one of its biggest and most capable rocks, the USS Monterey, commanded by Captain Jim Kilby, to make port in Constanta, Romania June 6–9.
The USS Monterey is one of the United States’ most capable fleet combat ships carrying the latest naval combat technology. However, on its visit to Constanta it carried something more powerful and influential than all its combined weaponry: eight pallets loaded with soccer balls, hospital linen, children’s school supplies, hygiene kits and teachers’ kits provided by the Project Handclasp Foundation.
Since 1959, the Project Handclasp Foundation and the US Navy have worked together on the delivery of basic humanitarian, educational and goodwill material to those in need around the world on US Navy vessels. For the second time, the United States European Command’s Civic Engagement Branch, Logistics Directorate; and the Office of Defense Cooperation in Romania joined with the US Navy’s Project Handclasp to assist the officers and crew of the USS Monterey coordinate the delivery of humanitarian and educational material to nine locations in and around Constanta, including two kindergartens and a hospital in Constanta County, and five orphanages and a kindergarten in Tulcea County.
Many caring individuals from several US and Romanian defense and civilian organizations made the delivery of the Project Handclasp Foundation materials possible. LTC Shannon Hancock, Alabama Army National Guard, Bilateral Affairs Officer; and Ms Corina Negoita, Bilateral Affairs Assistant, Office of Defense Cooperation, US Mission Bucharest worked closely with the Romanian Defense Ministry and the relevant local civilian officials to identify sites and arrange delivery of the donations. They also worked closely with the USS Monterey’s Ship’s Chaplain, LT Scot Sroka, who organized the volunteers from the ship’s crew to offload and help deliver the Project Handclasp Foundation material to Constanta Hospital and kindergartens #31 and #46 in Constanta. Chief Petty Officer Mihailescu Nita, Romanian Navy, and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force based in Romania, led by Major Todd Schunk, provided transportation and material handling services for deliveries to three sites. The General Directorate of Social Assistance and Child Protection Tulcea provided transportation for the donated material to the six remaining sites in Tulcea County.
The arrival of the USS Monterey in Constanta created a significant opportunity for the leadership of Romania and the United States to highlight and publicly discuss a shared interest in a strong and active friendship. The strategic collaboration of EUCOM, the US Mission Romania, the Office of Defense Cooperation and the US Navy’s Project Handclasp helped create additional ripples much further into the Constanta community than may have otherwise been possible.
As Chief Petty Officer Mihailescu pointed out to me during the visit to Kindergarten School #31, the ripples of the USS Monterey’s visit were tacitly and emotionally being experienced by the future caretakers of the Romanian-US relationship: the children of Constanta and the young adults of the USS Monterey and US Marines.
MAJ G. Lee Sepulvado, US Army Reserve,
Civic Engagement Branch, Logistics Directorate