USS Gunston Hall Departs Republic of Albania
USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) departed the Republic of Albania, April 27, after a scheduled port visit where the crew participated in numerous events including a reception and a community relations (COMREL) project.
Gunston Hall Sailors and Marines will leave with many lasting memories of strengthened relationships with their ally through a reception held aboard the ship and a COMREL held at an orphanage.
The COMREL, which was a two day effort, was held at the Bethany Christian Orphanage in Tirana, Albania. The project consisted of 60 Marines and Sailors completing a playground renovation that previously was overrun with weeds and grass.
“Well over 100 Sailors and Marines volunteered, but we ended up using just more than half the volunteers,” said Lt. Jeff Augustin, Gunston Hall’s chaplain. “We’re a small ship that packs a big punch.”
The team completed a drainage ditch that ran under the playground. The ditch should prevent future flooding on the playground. They also pulled weeds and provided overall beautification to the overall compound.
Finally, they engaged on a larger drainage project that redirects water away from one of the building’s foundations to a sewer. That ditch should prevent further erosion to the roadway and children’s living quarters.
“The staff and children of Bethany Christian Orphanage will have a fantastic summer on their newly renovated playground and will not have to worry about future erosion on their road network or building due to the hard work and efforts of the volunteers from the USS Gunston Hall,” said Maj. Mark T. Berlenbach, U.S. Army bilateral affairs officer, assistant chief, office of defense cooperation Albania, United States Embassy.
Another highlight of the Gunston Hall’s visit to Albania was a reception held on board the ship while in Duress.
“This is a momentous occasion. It has been over nine years since we [U.S. Navy] have had a ship pier side here in Duress,” said Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. “A way we get to strengthen our teamwork [U.S. and Albania] is through port visits like this one. Where our Sailors and Marines get to visit this beautiful country and make good friends.”
During the reception, Pandolfe and Gunston Hall’s chain of command socialized with the local officials, military members.
“It is an honor to be here. I understand that we are the first ship to come pier side in Duress in quite some time,” said Capt. Andy Loiselle, commanding officer of USS Gunston Hall, addressing the audience during the reception. “The entire crew aboard Gunston Hall takes immense pride in knowing that we are here today to develop and improve upon all relations with our fabulous NATO allies.”
In conjunction with the reception, the crew of Gunston Hall offered guided tours of the ship to the distinguished visitors, showing them how day-to-day operations are carried out, as well as life aboard a U. S. Navy ship.
“It’s really a great honor to be on board the USS Gunston Hall,” said Deborah Jones, U.S. charge d’ affairs to Albania. “I think the impressive tour that we just experienced underscores the importance of the hard work of USS Gunston Hall and of course, the extraordinary work of the U.S. Navy.”
“I’m sure that this port call will be quite memorable for the members of Gunston Hall, and I believe that its impact on Albania will be just as lasting,” said Jones. “We look forward to many more visits and appreciate the opportunity that you, Adm. Pandolfe, and Captain Loiselle have given us to come tour your ship.”
“This visit, along with the COMREL project, will go a long way in strengthening our ties with this key ally,” said Capt. Mark H. Scovill, commodore of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group. “Gunston Hall did a great job.”
Gunston Hall is part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Gunston Hall is currently deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.
Naval Today Staff , May 01, 2012; Image: navy