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LAEM CHABANG, Thailand - The forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), with embarked elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), arrived here for a port visit Feb. 21 after completing the multinational exercise Cobra Gold 2012.
Cobra Gold is a U.S.-Thai co-sponsored exercise designed to advance security throughout the Asia-Pacific region and enhance interoperability with participating nations.
During the port visit, Sailors will have the opportunity to experience exotic Thai culture and customs through a community service project, sponsored by the ship’s religious programs department, and various Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sponsored tours.
“We will be taking 30 Marine and Sailors to a school in Laem Chabang,” said Germantown’s Chaplain, Lt. j.g. Robert Hecox. “We will distribute school supplies and sporting equipment, play with the children, and just have a good time spreading good will.”
For Sailors and Marines looking for affordable ways to truly experience the Thai culture, MWR is offering several tours that will offer them the chance to experience first-hand why many Sailors consider this country one of their favorite port visits. Tours include the Golden Buddha Temple and Grand Palace, the Bridge over the River Kwai, Tiger Temple and several renowned destinations. Besides tours to the many of the historical sites in the country, MWR is also offering snorkeling and scuba diving trips.
In keeping with the Navy’s Right Spirit Campaign, Chief Personnel Specialist Gabriel Perez explained that the tours offer Sailors a safe and alcohol-free way to experience the Kingdom of Thailand.
“We offer these tours to our Sailors and Marines to give them an alternative means to enjoy Thailand besides the nightlife,” he said.
For many Sailors and Marines aboard the ship, the stop in Thailand will offer them a chance to experience things they may never get another chance to do. For Yeoman 1st Class Sheena Hunt, who is visiting the Kingdom of Thailand for the first time, she plans on doing something many of her friends have already experienced. “I want to ride an elephant,” she said. “I also want to pet some monkeys and see some tigers.”
For Seaman Brooke Haney, who is also visiting the Kingdom of Thailand for the first time, she wants to immerse herself in the culture and enjoy the culinary delights that are unique to the country.
“I want to try scorpion on a stick,” she said, referring to a snack she saw on a television show about exotic foods. “I also want to eat some genuine Thai food and enjoy the lifestyle.”
After enduring physically demanding conditions during exercise Cobra Gold, Lance Corporal Mercedes Banks, who is making her second visit to Thailand, said she looks forward to a chance to unwind and relax.
“I plan on going to get a spa massage for my feet, get my nails done and just relax by the pool,” she said. “I had a chance to visit the zoo last year, so this year, I plan on just taking it easy and enjoying some well-deserved time off. I plan to get in a little shopping for myself and my family, also.”
Germantown, commanded by Cdr. Carol McKenzie, was commissioned Feb. 8, 1986 and is capable of carrying more than 721 Sailors and Marines. Also recently completomg Cobra Gold were USS Tortuga (LSD 46). Both ships report to Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.