By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda, USS Ashland Public Affairs
More than 20 Sailors and Marines participated in a cultural exchange and community service event with students in the Inanam District of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Feb. 25.
In this first-ever visit by U.S. service members to the district, Sailors assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) and Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) interacted with students, planted trees, and painted part of the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Inanam High School.
The morning started by a short introduction and a brief by the school’s administrative staff and student representatives from each grade.
“I truly appreciate the Sailors and Marines in attendance for visiting our school of 1,300 students,” said Principal Mozidah Hamzah, the school’s principal. “The children are very excited for this unique opportunity. They are very happy.”
The students worked side by side with the volunteers, painting both sides of the school’s front wall and planting 15 trees alongside the school’s main driveway. Afterwards, the students performed various traditional Malaysian dances in the gymnasium of the school.
One participant, Lance Cpl. Aaron Luna, from Los Angeles, Calif., with the 31st MEU, said the time spent, though limited, was well worth it.
“It feels good to be able to give back to a school that is willing to accept our help,” said Luna. “I enjoyed interacting with the kids during this volunteer event and hope that the small time we spent with them will serve as a good, lasting impression.”
The crew of Ashland has been training in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations with over 300 embarked Marines from the 31st MEU and Sailors from Naval Beach Unit 7, all assigned under Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11.
Ashland, part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st MEU, is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.