MARGULO AND MAGSAYSAY, Republic of the Philippines --
After days in the field, conducting training exercises with their Philippine counterparts, the hardened warriors took a day to enjoy the company of children.
Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit visited two elementary schools to entertain local school children here, Oct. 11. The visits were part of a bilateral effort by US and Philippine armed forces to give back to the communities that help host Amphibious Landing Exercise 2013.
“These projects are important because it gives us a chance to show the people in the Philippines our appreciation for allowing us to train here,” said Navy Lt. Barratt Craig, the command chaplain for Combat Logistics Battalion-31 and a native of Boulder, Colo.
In the morning, Marines and Sailors visited Margulo Elementary School, a school with students ranging from kindergarten to grade six. The troops played sports and other activities with the kids for more than two hours. Ending the visit, the group sat in front of a stage, where 6th grade children performed several dances for the Marines. In return, the Marines marched in formation, allowing one of the students to call the commands.
Later in the afternoon, a separate group of Marines and Sailors joined children from the Hanniel Christian Academy and Orphanage during their Boy/Girl Scout camping night. There the troops played with the children before helping to set up their tents. The Marines also marched alongside the children during a musical performance. For their company, the group was rewarded with a home-cooked meal.
“These projects help the Marines understand a little more about another culture, something about the rest of the world and it gets them out of their own culture,” said Navy Cmdr. Nick Hamilton, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Chaplain and a native of Lakeview, Ore. “When the Marines walk away, it gives them a appreciation of the way other people live around the world.”
After the visit was complete, the Marines and Sailors said their farewells, leaving a smile on the children’s faces and the Marines with a feeling of pride.
“I had a great time getting to come out here with the kids,” said Sgt. Thomas Green, the safety non-commissioned officer for CLB-31, and a native of Jacksonville, N.C. “Every time, I walk away feeling that I have accomplished something. I think we enjoy these projects just as much as the kids.”
The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU are conducting the 29th iteration of the Amphibious Landing Exercise, alongside their Philippine Marine counterparts, to improve the two forces’ interoperability and strengthen their long standing relationship.
“Part of the main role of PHIBLEX is to demonstrate our partnership with the Philippine Military,” said Hamilton. “One of the ways we do that is having several different projects like this one.”
The 31st MEU will continue to train alongside the Philippine Marines and soldiers throughout the two week exercise, integrating the skills gained here into future operations. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.