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    First for everything: U.S. service members, University of Catania work together for first time

    First for everything: US service members, University of Catania work together for first time

    Photo By Gunnery Sgt. Bryan Peterson | For the first time since Naval Air Station Sigonella was established in 1959, U.S....... read more read more

    CATANIA, Italy - For the first time since Naval Air Station Sigonella was established in 1959, U.S. service members joined students from the University of Catania, Italy, for a community relations event, Dec. 16, 2015.

    Nearly 20 Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa and more than 180 students spent the day moving furniture, library books and beautifying the university’s garden – all that helps contribute to the school’s renovations and upkeep.

    Founded in 1434, the University of Catania is the world’s 29th oldest university. The students who have been working making improvements during recent weeks were excited to hear U.S. service members would be coming to lend a helping hand.

    “This really surprised us to hear about the American military to come help with this big project,” said Vivia Lanza, a junior at the university. “Most of us never interacted with the Americans before, so we made sure we would work with them today. I am studying foreign languages and English is one of them, so this gave me a better opportunity to talk and get to know them.”

    Like previous community relations events, the Marines and sailors went to work immediately, finishing all tasks in less than two hours, though they were scheduled for four hours of work. The rest of the time, the Marines and sailors explored the university with students, while learning about the history of the institution.

    Staff Sgt. Francois D. Stills, the administrative chief for SPMAGTF-CR-AF, enjoyed getting to know the students while taking the time to help preserve “some of the most beautiful buildings in the world.”

    “First, the people we worked with were great,” said Stills. “We were laughing and joking, and even though the language barrier prevented us from communicating directly, we had a great time. I like doing events like this for two reasons: the people and preservation. I love history and this place is full of it. This university has a monastery, which is the second oldest in Europe and we were here helping to preserve its surroundings. That’s awesome.”

    Paolo Arra, a senior and student counselor, was amazed with the Marines’ and sailors’ work ethic. He said, with the demanding college courses, they were able to get three days’ worth of work done in just a few hours.

    Additionally, the U.S. service members’ presence on campus was able to break down barriers for all the students.

    “If something is not normal, you ask questions and are curious,” said Arra. “When the Marines and sailors were walking on campus, I would get questions such as, ‘who are they and what are they doing here?’ Once I told them, they were very appreciative and asked if they could participate the next time.”

    Every time U.S. Navy Lt. Derrick Horne, the chaplain for SPMAGTF-CR-AF, comes to work, he looks for new ways to get out in the community to show what U.S. service members are all about.

    This event marks the 70th community relations event the Marines and sailors have been involved in since arriving to NAS Sigonella in July, showing no signs of slowing down.

    “This isn’t a numbers thing – it’s a relationship thing, a community thing, a people thing,” said Horne. “This is all about coming together for a common cause. The tireless efforts the Marines and sailors of [SPMAGTF-CR-AF] have shown the past five months has been opening a lot of doors for us. When we do these things, other places and organizations here about it and the positivity that comes out of it. This event is just one of them. I extremely happy we can continue to meet new people and provide a helping hand whenever and wherever we can. This is about the positive impact we can have on others and that’s what we are about.”



    Date Taken: 12.16.2015
    Date Posted: 12.17.2015 04:31
    Story ID: 184736
    Location: CATANIA, IT 

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