NAVAL SUPPORT AREA SOUDA BAY, Greece - When Lance Corporal, Anastasios Eleftheriadis, a Marine attached to the 4th Landing Support Battalion, learned his unit was participating in a training exercise in Souda Bay, Crete, his reaction was slightly different compared to his fellow Marines.
Eleftheriadis, who is a technical inspector with 4th LSB, spent two, three-year periods of his childhood growing up in Rhodes, Greece. Although born in New York, his family immediately relocated to the small Mediterranean island which is part of the Dodecanese Islands off the country's southern coast.
"We all come from different backgrounds, and I never thought I'd have the opportunity to use my childhood experiences to help my unit," said the 23-year-old native of Jacksonville, Fla.
Marines often times find themselves training or stationed abroad in places far from their comfort zone.
"The European lifestyle is considerably different than ours," said Eleftheriadis, or 'E-12' as the Marines call him ['E' and the 12 letters that follow]. "It's important to recognize that difference and embrace the opportunity to learn," he added emphatically.
Gunnery Sergeant Brent Worley, the Landing Force Shore Party staff non-commissioned officer in charge, seized the rare opportunity.
"I asked him to put a class together," said Worley. "I wanted the Marines to have a head start so they would know what to expect. It's easy to look at other cultures and judge. As Americans, we sometimes assume our way of thinking is the only way of thinking," said the 21-year veteran from Macon, Ga. "The military is a melting pot of culture. It's just part of the unique world we live in as servicemembers."
Eleftheriadis, a 23-year-old senior at the University of North Florida, prepared a class covering customs, courtesies, and some of the everyday greetings and terms. The class was absorbed by the Savannah-based Marines and provided a foundation for a worthwhile experience.
"I wanted to teach them some customs, courtesies, and everyday terms that would show the citizens of Crete the Marines were trying to learn their way of life," said Eleftheriadis.
And apparently the effort Marines are making isn't going unnoticed.
"Greek citizens have received the Marines well and can see we're trying to learn their way of life," said Worley. "When the locals realize we have a Marine who's from their part of the world, the bond is also strengthened," he added.
As for Eleftheriadis, the trip home also provided an opportunity to visit family he hasn't seen in nearly four years. He and other Marines also volunteered to help renovate a senior citizen home in Chania. After college, he plans to attend Officer Candidate School to become a Marine Corps Officer.