REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE --
Fifteen Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group toured Singapore , with the help of the USS Essex’s (LHD 2) Morale, Welfare and Recreation department, and learned how a small country became one of the world’s largest epicenters of international trade in the last 45 years.
On the tour, service members learned this not-so-small, city-state has a population of around 5 million people made up of Chinese, Indians, Arabs and Malays. Throughout the tour, Marines and Sailors learned of Singapore’s fight for survival under the rule of colonial Britain, its ‘dark years’ after the invasion of Imperial Japan, how it gained independence in August of 1965.
The first stop service members made was in Kampong Glam, in Little India. Here they were able to see the Masjid Sultan, a Sultan Mosque which is an important gathering place for the Muslim community in Kampong Glam. They were also able to walk around Bussorah pedestrian mall and shop a while before heading to their next location – Lion City.
On their way to Lion City Marines and Sailors passed through a small section of abandoned buildings left over from British colonial rule, when they were defeated by the Japanese Army. They also saw the Civilian War Memorial, a 61-meter-tall structure made up of four columns representing the four cultures of Singapore that lost their lives in World War II, as well as another memorial commemorating the loss of life during the Japanese invasion.
As they passed through Singapore’s financial district, they made their way to Mount Faber Park. Mount Faber stands 344 feet high and is a popular attraction among locals and tourists for its panoramic views of Singapore’s central areas and harbors.
After lunch, the service members visited Thian Hock Keng, a 190-year-old Taoist temple in China Town. The main temple was erected in 1822 in honor of Mazu Po, the Taoist goddess of the sea and protector of seaman and travelers. Many people visit Thian Hock Keng to offer thanks and to pray for safe passage.
“Getting to visit the temples and the mosques was an unforgettable experience,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Bonita Edwards, Aerographers Mate with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group. “Learning about the different deities and warriors that supposedly guard these places of prayer was very exciting for me.”
After spending a full day learning, and experiencing a few of the treasures Singapore has to offer, service members headed back to ship with plenty to talk about.
“This was my first time in Singapore and I loved it,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Stacey Dunn, Information Systems Technician with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group. “This was a great way to save some money and see places most people don’t ever get to see.”
The 31st MEU and the Essex ARG are in Singapore on a scheduled port visit midway through a regular patrol of the Asia-Pacific region. The Marines and Sailors are on the port visit after completing a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission in the Northern Philippines.