News: Community Involvement: 'It's What it's All About'
Story by Spc. Megan Burnham
From Joint Task Force - Guantanamo Bay
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – When Navy Ensign Ian Underwood traveled to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to begin his deployment as the public works construction projects manager, he noticed certain things that could be improved around the base. Instead of simply noticing, Underwood took it to the next level and made it a reality through community activism.
"This is my first tour as an officer," said Underwood. "I've always been interested in doing volunteer service throughout my career and when I got here there wasn't much community involvement going on."
It was from this mindset that Underwood went to his executive officer, the security office and other departments to ask for permission to organize community service opportunities.
"Being in public works and going all over base and seeing the facilities, I saw there was definitely an opportunity to clean things up," said Underwood.
After receiving approval for projects both around the Naval Station and the Joint Task Force, Underwood began advertising on the "roller" with himself as a point of contact.
"It's always kind of strange that people ask me if I'm in charge of it or if it is my project," said Underwood. "I don't think of it like that. I'm just doing it because I want to and I'm inviting people to come along."
While some project opportunities come from Underwood's own observances, he also receives ideas from many different venues, to include people calling in response to advertisements from the roller and The Wire.
"The environmental department gave me a list of [projects] to look at as a starting point," said Underwood. "I also kept my eyes out for other things I wanted to see taken care of."
Previous projects have included a wide array of work to include trash pickup, tree removal, building construction and painting.
"This type of volunteering is a lot of work," said Underwood. "The beach clean-ups are the easy stuff but a lot of times there's lifting, hauling and cutting stuff up. It makes you sweat, makes you tired."
While this experience has given Underwood the chance to "bust hump on the weekends and do something with [his] hands," it has also helped him to improve his ability to coordinate these events.
"There are times when I realize that I haven't prepared enough," said Underwood. "I'll be running around getting things accomplished and it's good to learn from experiences like these. I can apply these experiences in my job later on in life and further down my career."
In preparation for the community involvement opportunities, Underwood makes sure there is water and coordinates necessary tools being available while all safety concerns are taken care of. Also, Underwood keeps track of anyone who is working towards a volunteer service medal by emailing them to make sure they log their hours and updating their information on his own computer.
"I'm really proud of the people that have come out," said Underwood. "I'd like to encourage other people to volunteer as well as give me suggestions on stuff they want to see done."