MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI -- The Marine Aircraft Group 12 Chaplains' Office is now participating in a community relations project larger than any they have done in the past, but they are not doing it alone.
Although most community relations projects are localized to one command, the entire 1st Marine Aircraft Wing has expanded the concept of community to encompass the majority of the South Pacific.
The project, which began in late August, came about after Marine F/A-18 squadrons took part in the first deployments using island hopping rather than aerial refueling to make the journey to Australia. While doing that earlier this year, it became evident to the Marines that the families and children of the islands were in need of basic necessities.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Brown, MAG-12 command chaplain, the biggest group that needs support are children and orphans of the small Third World island nations.
"What we are trying to do is put together a block of items so that when we receive the call, everything will be ready," Brown said.
The three blocks of items include personal hygiene supplies like toothbrushes and soap, school and art supplies with notebooks and pens and sets of linen.
Some of the countries Marines will help are Papa New Guinea, Thailand, Fiji, Korea and Singapore. They are all places where training takes place or where squadrons stop on their way through the Pacific, Brown noted.
"Basically when our planes leave out of here there will be pallets put together with the items," Brown said. "There will be a point of contact at the various sites, and when squadrons deploy they will drop them off."
Right now, the project is in the gathering stage and the chaplains' office is looking for donations to the program. The items will be packaged and stored until a unit deploys through the Pacific rim.
"This is going to be an ongoing initiative," Brown said. "We need your help to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children."
Brown also noted that the children are not the only ones that benefit for the community relations projects.
"A project like this benefits everybody, not just the people receiving," said Lt. Peter Fremont-Smith, assistant command chaplain. "It also helps the young guys who are going to be able to give when they are on deployment. It makes them feel good and boosts their morale."
For more information on how or what to donate, contact the MAG-12 Chaplains' Office at 253-5212.