Saipan was recently visited by about 300 Sailors and 400 Marines aboard the USS Germantown. The ship arrived on Wednesday and left our island on Sunday morning.
They dumped a whole lot of money into our economy. Thanks, boys!
I had a chance to meet some of them at a Beautify CNMI cleanup of the Garapan Tourist District on Friday and during a tour of the ship on Saturday morning.
I was approached by Christine Parke, the Executive Director of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, to see if I would be interested in helping to coordinate a Beautify CNMI cleanup with some of the guys from the ship.
We bounced a couple of ideas of each other and finally decided that a cleanup in Garapan would be our best bet. It was close to the ship and we could invite some students from Garapan Elementary to participate, too.
We ended up recruiting about 80 Marines and Sailors and about 60 or so students and teachers. We also had help from several other organizations and individuals. MVA, PDM Promoters, Isa CNMI, and MINA all had volunteers show up. Herman's bakery donated cookies. I used some of the Beautify CNMI money to buy water. Even Cinta Kaipat stopped in on her way to a session to thank the kids for their participation.
After two hours we had filled four pickup trucks with garbage.
Commander Steve Vincent, the commanding officer of the USS Germantown, provided all of the volunteers with lunch from the ship. He brought hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken. He also gave all of the kids USS Germantown pins.
I was lucky enough to receive a USS Germantown hat.
After the cleanup, the Commander invited all of the volunteers to tour the ship the next morning.
You better believe I was there. I brought EJ with me.
It's clobberin' time: The hull of the USS Germantown carries two big hover crafts and a bunch of landing vehicles. These pictures are probably classified. I hope I don't get a phonecall from Homeland Security.
The ship was one of the bigger ships Saipan has seen and this was my first time touring an active Navy ship. I know my brother, Kevin, would have been jealous.
I didn't take nearly as many pictures as Bruce, but I took a few.
Suck my Gatling gun: The USS Germantown is equipped with two 20mm Phalanx CIWS anti-missile Gatling guns. This baby fires 75 rounds per second. I gotta get me one of those.
We were taken to see where the Sailors and Marines go when they are sick, where they eat, where the control center for the ship is located, to the bridge, and up on the top deck to see some of the guns.
Cool stuff, all of it.
Mmmmm...Donuts: I'm sure Winchell's was happy to hear that Sailors and Marines like donuts.
One of the Sailors participating in the cleanup went to Garapan Elementary School about 13 years ago. He lived on Saipan for a few years, but left when his family left. He now lives in San Diego.
It's been a few years: USS Germantown Sailor Marvin Mascardo with GES Principal Boni Gomez. Boni was a teacher when Marvin was a student at GES in 1994.
Welcome back to Saipan, Marvin!
The Big Guy: That's me with Christine Parke and Commander Vincent.
Commander Steven Vincent, the Commanding Officer for the USS Germantown told Captain Carl and me one of the best military stories I've ever heard. I apologize in advance for screwing up the details and for not being as eloquent as he.
During World War II, Commander Vincent's father earned a Silver Star fighting in Europe. His father never told him how he won the medal, telling his son that they handed one out to everyone just for showing up during the war.
To make a long story short, in his search for how his father earned the medal, he met his father's best friend from the war. Commander Vincent invited his father's friend to the USS Germantown. During his visit, he explained the meaning of the ship's crest, which has a castle from the German town of Krefeld, where the original settlers of Germantown, PA emigrated from.
Turns out that the Commander's father and father's best friend took that castle during WWII.
Now Commander Vincent is the Commanding Officer of the US Navy ship that bears that castle as her crest.
How cool is that?
Here I am holding Commander Vincent's coffee cup:
Maybe some of that charisma will rub off on me.