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Philippine, American Sailors train together during CARAT.

U.S. and Filipino Sailors and Marines worked side-by-side on medical, dental and engineering civic action programs and community relations projects during exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2009.

At Looc National High School, U.S. Navy Seabees and their Philippine counterparts constructed a new classroom and stage area as part of an engineering civic action program (ENCAP). Meanwhile, Sailors and Marines from Philippine Naval Forces Central Command, landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and Task Group 73.5 painted the school and delivered four pallets of textbooks.

CARAT 2009 also included a series of medical and dental civic action programs in Argao where Philippine and U.S. medical personnel provided medical, dental and optometry care to more than 800 local citizens.

Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Muhammad Matthews of the Harpers Ferry engineering department volunteered the day before to deliver supplies and play basketball with students at Bangbang Elementary School.

"We had a blast there yesterday," Matthews said. "There were a lot of kids out there that were glad to see us."

During the visit to the school, Matthews and other Sailors delivered frisbees, soccer balls and spent time playing with the children.

Arturo Go, principal, Looc National High School, plans to make sure other schools in Lapu-Lapu also reap the benefit of the hundreds of language, history, social studies, physical, earth and life science textbooks donated by Project Handclasp.

Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 40 have been working with Philippine Seabees from the 1st Naval Construction Brigade since April 30 to construct a new single-room schoolhouse at Looc as well as rebuilding the roof of an outdoor stage which had been damaged during a recent storm.

The new schoolhouse would reduce the amount of children per class at a school where class sizes exceed 50 per room, resulting in more personalized attention for each of the school's 544 students.

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"I feel so blessed, and I'm very grateful to the U.S. Navy and the Philippine Navy," Go said. "Not all schools receive such kind donations."

Philippine Sailors brought "banana-que," skewered bananas fried in caramel, along with bottles of cold sodas for the U.S. Sailors and Marines in appreciation for their work and dedication.

"I love seeing our Sailors out here, a lot of them on their own time, working together with the Philippine Navy and making it a better place for the children when they come back to school in a few days," said Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific.

CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in Southeast Asia to strengthen relationships and enhance the operational readiness of the participating forces. Harpers Ferry is serving as flagship for a U.S. Navy task group.

Story and photo by MCC Brian Brannon, Commander, Task Group 73.5., Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines.
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Title Annotation:This Just In; Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training
Author:Brannon, Brian
Publication:All Hands
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:474
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