Marines, Sailors Donate Books, Read To Local Elementary School

Marines, Sailors Donate Books, Read To Local Elementary School

Service members of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 14 and Navy Supply pose for a photo with students during a community relations event at a local elementary school, the Istituto Comprensivo Cesare Battisti of Catania, in the San Cristoforo neighborhood. Photo by Cpl Shawn Valosin.

SIGONELLA, Italy (Oct. 1, 2014) - Marines and Sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 14 visited a local elementary school, the Istituto Comprensivo Cesare Battisti of Catania, in the San Cristoforo neighborhood, Sept. 25.

The students and staff of the local elementary school welcomed the service members from Naval Air Station Sigonella with a warm embrace, holding up handmade signs with American and Italian flags side-by-side.

At the school, Petty Officer Third Class Michael Fallone, a corpsman with SP-MAGTF Africa and SgtMaj Charmalyn Pile, the sergeant major of SP-MAGTF Africa read to a class full of students, ranging in age from 6-13. The students had different levels of understanding with the English language, some of the older students being more advanced than the younger ones.

"I thought [the community relations event] was very nice,"  said Petty Officer Third Class Michael Fallone, a Middletown, Ohio, native with SP-MAGTF Africa 14. "It gave the Marines and Sailors a chance to get out into the community and show them what we're all about … [more importantly] it let us give back to the community and show [Sicilian locals] our appreciation for having us here."

Fallone and Pile both took time to talk to individual students, learning their names and telling them about themselves. At the completion of the reading, the Marines donated three bags full of books, ranging in reading levels.

"This was the first COMREL project which brought a U.S. military group to interact through an educational school project such as an English lesson and the donation of books with the children of local schools since 1959, the year [Naval Air Station Sigonella] opened," said Dr. Alberto Lunetta, the NASSIG community relations officer. "Sailors and other service members typically carry out maintenance or cleanup projects."

Dr. Lunetta also said that the COMREL event was so successful that school officials have asked about the possibility for the Marines to return and conduct more projects that are similar in nature for their students.

Dr. Maria P. Laquinta, the principal of Istituto Comprensivo Cesare Battisti of Catania, has started her own community project, "V [for] Volunteering." 

The program aims at cultivating community volunteerism and developing a sense of service, as well as preventing anti-social behavior.

While the Marines and Sailors of SP-MAGTF Africa conducted the reading, Navy Supply Sailors from NASSIG conducted a cleanup project at the school.

The service members currently assigned to SP-MAGTF Africa 14 are tasked with supporting Marine Forces Europe and Africa and U.S. Africa Command by carrying out theater security cooperation missions in various African countries in order to build partnerships and the capacity to address regional security concerns.

The Marines and Sailors of SP-MAGTF Africa strive to be good shepherds in their local communities, all while conducting theater security cooperation and military-to-military engagements with partner nations in Africa.

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