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Petty Officer 1st Class Dean Marzano, damage control training team coordinator aboard the USS Safeguard from Sasebo, attempts to hand out candy and treats to children at the Iram Elementary School during a community-relations project near Subic Bay, Philippines.

Petty Officer 1st Class Dean Marzano, damage control training team coordinator aboard the USS Safeguard from Sasebo, attempts to hand out candy and treats to children at the Iram Elementary School during a community-relations project near Subic Bay, Philippines. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

Petty Officer 1st Class Dean Marzano, damage control training team coordinator aboard the USS Safeguard from Sasebo, attempts to hand out candy and treats to children at the Iram Elementary School during a community-relations project near Subic Bay, Philippines.

Petty Officer 1st Class Dean Marzano, damage control training team coordinator aboard the USS Safeguard from Sasebo, attempts to hand out candy and treats to children at the Iram Elementary School during a community-relations project near Subic Bay, Philippines. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

Seaman David Lee John, from the USS Safeguard, tosses candy and treats to children at the Iram Elementary School.

Seaman David Lee John, from the USS Safeguard, tosses candy and treats to children at the Iram Elementary School. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

SUBIC BAY, Philippines — Through a haze of outstretched hands and fingers, Seaman David Lee John tossed handfuls of candy through the air.

The USS Safeguard sailor escaped the routine rigors aboard ship with about 20 other sailors Wednesday to build a gazebo outside a school for children displaced by a volcanic eruption.

After shoveling concrete all morning, they took a break, bought out the candy at a small store and created a riotous reception.

Scores of children fled from daily lessons momentarily for the impromptu gift-giving and nearly overwhelmed the visiting sailors.

“I like building stuff for the kids, to see the look on their faces,” John said before the candy riot.

After the work is done, he and the other volunteers will challenge the youngsters to volleyball and basketball games.

“It gives us a better understanding of more than just the pier,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class David Petersen, an engineman aboard the Safeguard. “This is our only chance to see how it is in the Philippines.”

With every stop during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, sailors get a chance to get off base, take some time out and meet locals, while helping communities through community-relations projects.

“It gives our sailors a chance to meet the people of the nation,” said Commodore Buzz Little, CARAT task group commander.

In some countries, sailors visited the elderly or disabled. Elsewhere, they rolled up their sleeves and built things. The goal is letting sailors see the countries they visit but to also introduce the local communities to servicemembers in a nonmilitary environment, Little said.

At the Iram high school and elementary school, the sailors were building a gazebo and erecting volleyball nets and basketball hoops, said the project coordinator, Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. William Middleton. The Navy also is donating basketballs and volleyballs to the schools, he said.

“I’ve volunteered in almost every country I’ve been in,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Branch, an engineman aboard the USS Harpers Ferry. Branch said his mother taught him the value of helping others.

In countries they visit, it also spreads good will, he said.

“It let’s them know you just don’t come to their country for fun. It gives something back.”

The visits also give the sailors a chance to meet each other. Despite having the same job on two Sasebo-based ships, Petersen and Branch probably would have never met were it not through the project, they said.

Seaman Linda Ortiz, from the Safeguard, said the sailors helped the students with their homework. Each visit to a classroom was met with a thunderous welcome from the students.

“A lot of people wanted to come, to see the sites,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Dean Marzano, damage-control training team coordinator aboard the Safeguard. “It’s a nice break from the ship.”

The candy idea was spur- of-the-moment but gave the sailors great lasting memories of the smiling students.

“It’s something we should do more often,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ron Staib, from the USS Rodney M. Davis, who extended in the Navy to come to CARAT. Volunteering, he added, “is one of the most important things about [CARAT].”


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