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USS Miguel Keith Members Strengthen Bonds Through Community Engagement in Thailand

05 December 2023

From Grady Fontana

In a heartwarming display of camaraderie and goodwill, members of Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) expeditionary sea base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) and MSC Far East recently undertook a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4.
Navy Lt. Jamil A. Khan, right, chaplain, MSC Far East in Singapore, interacts with a child during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Navy Lt. Jamil A. Khan, right, chaplain, MSC Far East in Singapore, interacts with a child during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Navy Lt. Jamil A. Khan, right, chaplain, MSC Far East in Singapore, interacts with a child during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
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Navy Lt. Jamil A. Khan, right, chaplain, MSC Far East in Singapore, interacts with a child during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Photo By: Grady Fontana
VIRIN: 231204-N-IX266-1002


USS Miguel Keith is an afloat forward staging base-variant of the mobile landing platform designed to provide dedicated support for air and mine countermeasures, and special warfare missions. It’s currently in the Indo-Pacific region in support of U.S. 7th Fleet and is in Thailand undergoing routine voyage repair and maintenance.

However, beyond its naval duties, the crew demonstrated a profound dedication to community outreach, understanding the importance of meaningful engagement with local kids.

While the ship was under maintenance, civilian mariners travelled to the Learning Center in Pattaya for a day of fun and games with the children, which was facilitated by Navy League Siam in Pattaya.

The event not only showcased the spirit of solidarity between differing cultures but also highlighted the significance of fostering connections beyond geographical boundaries.

“I volunteered to come out to the center because it gives me a chance to see what other parts of Thailand are like,” said civilian mariner Bob Dumas, supply utilityman, USS Miguel Keith.

Civilian mariner Neil Deocampo, assistant storekeeper, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), sings karaoke as children listen during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Civilian mariner Neil Deocampo, assistant storekeeper, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), sings karaoke as children listen during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Civilian mariner Neil Deocampo, assistant storekeeper, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), sings karaoke as children listen during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
231204-N-IX266-1005
Civilian mariner Neil Deocampo, assistant storekeeper, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), sings karaoke as children listen during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Photo By: Grady Fontana
VIRIN: 231204-N-IX266-1005


According to Dumas, engaging with children from different backgrounds offers a unique window into the local culture. It allows him to learn about traditions, customs, and daily life experiences that might be different from his own. It fosters cultural understanding and appreciation.

The Learning Center is a non-governmental organization and is one of the projects of the Human Help Foundation in Pattaya. The center hosts about 80 children a day from Thailand and neighboring nations, whose parents are day laborers in Thailand. The center offers education to children who typically don’t have access to public schools.

According to the Human Help Network Foundation director, Radchada Chomjinda, the biggest contribution visitors can make is the simple interaction with the children through conversation in English. The importance of learning English for children in Thailand extends beyond linguistic proficiency; it significantly influences their future opportunities.

A child kicks the ball to members of Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary sea base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
A child kicks the ball to members of Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary sea base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
A child kicks the ball to members of Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary sea base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
231204-N-IX266-1004
A child kicks the ball to members of Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary sea base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Photo By: Grady Fontana
VIRIN: 231204-N-IX266-1004


“We have these children for a short amount of time,” said Chomjinda. “If they are in the Thai school system, they can learn English, but some of these kids are only in Thailand between three to six months. It’s not enough time to learn English. That is why the interaction with foreigners is so important. It helps build their vocabulary and confidence.”

The three-hour visit consisted of a variety of playground-type games that often led to many laughs, cheers and yells of encouragement that were fostered by the MSC members, the facility volunteers and the kids. There was even karaoke.

“Music has the power to uplift spirits and create positive vibes,” said civilian mariner Neil Deocampo, assistant storekeeper, USS Miguel Keith. Sharing laughter and enjoying light-hearted moments strengthens friendships by creating positive interactions with each other.

Civilian mariner Bob Dumas, left, supply utilityman, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), interacts with children during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Civilian mariner Bob Dumas, left, supply utilityman, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), interacts with children during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Civilian mariner Bob Dumas, left, supply utilityman, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), interacts with children during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
231203-N-IX266-1003
Civilian mariner Bob Dumas, left, supply utilityman, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), interacts with children during a community relations event at the Learning Center of the Human Help Network in Pattaya, Thailand, Dec. 4. (Photo by Grady T. Fontana)
Photo By: Grady Fontana
VIRIN: 231203-N-IX266-1003


Deocampo carried his portable microphone and delivered an adlibbed karaoke session that filled the room with laughter and enjoyment, and contributed to a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.

The mariners engaged the kids in many games that brought a lasting smile to their faces. The day ended when the kids served a delicious meal to the ship's crew.

“The impact of the community relations events extends far beyond the duration of the interaction itself,” said Navy Lt. Jamil A. Khan, chaplain, MSC Far East in Singapore. “They lay the foundation for enduring friendships among people from different walks of life. The event at the Learning Center stands as a testament to the values upheld by the USS Miguel Keith crew—a commitment to service and fostering goodwill.”

MSC Far East ensures approximately 50 ships in the Indo-Pacific Region are manned, trained, and equipped to deliver essential supplies, fuel, cargo, and equipment to warfighters, both at sea and on shore. U.S. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
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