By Staff Sgt. Tina Villalobos
35th Infantry Division
CAMP PATRIOT, Kuwait—Beautiful blue water, just the right amount of sun, and a gentle sea breeze brought a team of more than 40 people together Jan. 25 to clean a 300-meter stretch of beach. Soldiers from the 35th Infantry Division worked alongside members of the U.S. and Kuwaiti Navy, as well as the Kuwait naval base civilian security forces, to collect over five truckloads of trash on a nearby beach, renewing the site to its original beauty.
“Back in November, the U.S. Marine Corps Expeditionary unit came through, and they did hovercraft operations on the beach. When we were doing that, I noticed all this trash,” said Cmdr. Perry Meyer, liaison officer to Kuwait, U.S. Navy Central Command. “I thought it would be a great way to engender goodwill toward the Kuwait Navy to do a United States only beach clean-up.”
Lt. Col. Hasan Shehab, harbor master commander, Kuwait navy, was very pleased with Perry’s idea, but he felt it was very important to make the cleanup a joint effort.
“We generally make a point of periodically cleaning this beach because trash that’s out in the ocean tends to wash up here,” said Shehab. “It’s a restricted beach area, however, and it hasn’t been used or cleaned for a while. When the U.S. Navy commander came to me with this idea, I thought, ‘This is going to be a great opportunity to work together on something small as a sustainable effort that we can continue in the future.’”
Soldiers of the 35th Infantry Division enjoyed the opportunity to share in making a positive difference.
“Through our outreach to the embassy, we discovered that the Kuwait naval beach was polluted with lots of trash,” said Maj. Dave Chappell, deputy civil affairs officer, 35th Infantry Division. “The Kuwaitis were interested in getting this beach cleaned up. We really wanted to help, and to give a little back to the community that has hosted us so generously for the past eight months.
“Our team effort today contributes to making the world a better and cleaner place. Hopefully, there will be future potential for recreational use of this beach to include use by U.S. Soldiers.”
Staff Sgt. Arthur Rodriguez, operations noncommissioned officer, 35th Infantry Division, also took a one-world perspective.
“It’s helping the environment. We only have one planet,” said Rodriguez. “The environment is in need of our help, and it is a good feeling to be out here!”
Giving back was a common theme among these troops.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of times that we could volunteer for stuff like this,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2, Carol Sprawka, fires targeting officer, 35th Infantry Division. “I do believe that helping to clean up any beach is the proper thing to do. I am glad we came. The beach really needed it, and it is nice to have different militaries all together doing the same thing for the same purpose.”
Chappell was inspired by the willingness of U.S. troops to give back to a community that is not their own.
“It definitely feels very good to see U.S. and Kuwaiti soldiers working together to make Kuwait and the world a beautiful place,” said Chappell. “Being out with the sea breeze in your face and the sunshine on you, and hearing the pounding surf makes the experience all that much better.”
While the team finished loading the huge pile of trash and debris into truck after truck, Shehab smiled as he looked out onto the freshly cleaned beach area.
“There’s no feeling better than this! It is really great to work together and achieve such amazing results,” said Shehab. “The beach looks absolutely beautiful. I hope that we can continue to do this together as a regular project, and find other opportunities to work together as well.
“Honestly, the most important thing I want to say is thank you very much to the U.S. military for their teamwork and cooperation in working alongside us. We truly appreciate it.”