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Monday, November 26, 2007

31st MEU, USS Essex Marines, Sailors arrive in Cambodia to foster relations





By Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani, 31st MEU

SIHANOUKVILLE, Kingdom of Cambodia (Nov. 26, 2007) -- Marines and Sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Command Amphibious Squadron 11 and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived here, Nov. 26 for a scheduled port visit.

More than 2,500 servicemembers are scheduled to provide medical and dental treatment to rural Cambodians, participate in engineering civic action projects, professional military exchanges, youth activities, and distribute hundreds of donated items, such as books, toys, clothes and medicals supplies across Cambodia to foster goodwill.

“Over the course of the next week, Marines and Sailors coming from the Essex will conduct two medical and dental clinics, build two bridges and participate in six community relations projects,” said Col. John Mayer, the 31st MEU commanding officer. “We will also (teach at) the National Defense University to help students with English and to understand our military forces.”

The MEU, Essex and CPR-11 have been granted a budget of more than 26,000 dollars for construction materials, 10,000 dollars for medical supplies and 2,000 dollars for community relation event donations, such as books, sporting equipment and school supplies, according to Maj. Eric Malinowki, the MEU logistics officer, and a native of Portsmouth, N.H.

During a visit to the Essex, Royal Government of Cambodia distinguished guests and U.S. military leaders spoke of the new beginnings this visit makes possible.

Piper Campbell, the Kingdom of Cambodia U.S. Embassy deputy chief of mission, explained this visit represents the continued friendship between the two nations and military services.

“I am honored to welcome the USS Essex and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to Sihanoukville,” said Campbell. “As you may know, this visit represents only the second time a U.S. Naval vessel has visit. These visits are a dramatic representation of the strengthening and broadening of the relationship between the United States and Cambodia. The visit of the USS Essex will build on these partnerships and help to deepen our ties.

“An important aspect of this visit is that thousands of Cambodians will have the opportunity to personally interact with some of America’s finest ambassadors,” added Campbell. "I can think of no finer symbol of the friendship between Americans and Cambodians than these people-to-people projects.

“I would like to thank his Excellency, the governor of Sihanoukville, and the entire Royal Government of Cambodia for all of their support in making this historic visit successful," Campbell continued.

Mayer expressed his gratitude for this opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“On behalf of all the Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, I would like to thank each and every one of you for having our Marines and Sailors visit the Kingdom of Cambodia,” said Mayer, to members of the Royal Government of Cambodia, during a visit to the Essex. “All the Marines and Sailors from the MEU are excited and absolutely see this as an opportunity to meet the people of Cambodia and see this historical land.”

The visit is part of the Cambodia Theater Security Cooperation, which is intended to build on the relationship between the U.S. and Cambodian governments and develop interoperability between U.S. forces and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
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