sihanoukville – A US Navy warship dropped anchor in the Gulf of Thailand on Saturday, marking the third US naval ship visit to Cambodia in the past 20 months.
The USS Mustin, a guided missile destroyer, carried about 300 crew members to Cambodia from its home port in Yokosuka, Japan, for a humanitarian military mission that included fixing up three Sihanoukville elementary schools, running a free medical clinic, building a maternity ward, visiting an orphanage and presenting a free concert.
Saturday morning, dignitaries welcomed the 155-meter destroyer with a ceremony held aboard the ship while it rested about 2.5 km off the Sihanoukville port.
“On behalf of [Sihanoukville] authorities and myself, I strongly appreciate and warmly welcome to the porting of the US Navy warship” said Sihanoukville Governor Sboang Sarath. “These activities are evidence of unity, friendship, and a working relationship between both our countries.”
Piper Campbell, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, also spoke: “[W]e should save the opportunity to stand here as friends and partners in the fight against terrorism, in supporting regional stability and security and in improving the lives of Cambodians through some of the programs our navies are jointly holding for this visit.”
This weekend, the USS Mustin was flanked by a trio of RCAF naval ships, a partnership that will lead to an expertise swap slated for Tuesday. US seamen and women will demonstrate to about 20 RCAF members search and rescue, shipboard firefighting, and helicopter techniques, said US Lieutenant Justin Fair.
Ongoing aid projects were also showcased Saturday. At Hun Sen Khrong Primary School a handful of US Navy civil engineers painted exterior walls with a cream-colored layer of paint.
“I like it, I like helping the community when we go places,” said 19-year-old Racheal Bass, of the US state of Georgia. “I feel like that if we can help them in any way, we should.”
That attitude didn’t go unnoticed: “I am very pleased, they are working very hard from 6 am to 6 pm to renovate the old school,” said Prum Sarang, deputy principal of Hun Sen Khrong Primary School, while renovations were taking place. “Their deeds are a good model for the students, Cambodians, and teachers.”
Hoeus Vuthy, 11, a sixth-grader, said he was inspired by seeing the US Navy at work. “I am very excited. They [the US Navy] are different from the Cambodian army. They are much more friendly and gentle. I want to be the army in the future because I see how the army could help the weak and the poor.”