IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 28, 2001
USS NASSAU (LHA 4) PUBLIC AFFAIRS
"USS NASSAU Choir Become
Good Will Ambassadors Overseas"
Approved for Release by Sixth Fleet Public
By JOC Michael G. Frost
Since the general purpose amphibious assault
ship USS NASSAU (LHA4) has been deployed in the Mediterranean,
crewmembers have visited several scenic ports of call and meet many
interesting people. One group of exceptional NASSAU Sailors and
Marines have joined together to share their faith and promote good
will during each port visit.
Sailors and Marines of USS NASSAUís Gospel
Choir began performing in churches and schools while the ship was in
Valletta, Malta, in mid-January, and have performed at events in
each port since then.
While the ship visited Toulon, France,
recently, the Gospel Choir traveled to three different sites in the
city to perform: Notre Dame High School on Thursday, 8 February, St.
Flavian Roman Catholic Church, on Sunday, 11 February and Mary
Francis High School on Tuesday, 13 February. In addition, the choir
also joined with the choir from USS EMORY S. LAND to perform on
board USS NASSAU on Sunday, 11 February in a special concert dubbed
|During their most recent
performance at Mary Francis High School they performed for
students at the school. Directed by Lt. Cmdr. Darryl Person,
Chaplain for Marine Expeditionary Unit 22 embarked on board
USS NASSAU, the choir performed several gospel numbers for
the students, singing on a small stage accompanied by
musicians from the group on keyboard and drums.
The group actually performed three
different concerts of three or four hymns as new groups of students
arrived in the small auditorium. Many of the students spoke little
English but the choir was able to communicate their message with
their enthusiasm and their music. The students were quiet at first,
because they didnít know what to expect, but they began to laugh
and clap in time to the music after the choir began their first
In between each concert, the group met
with the students. Although none of the choir spoke French and many
of the students spoke only a little English, both groups enjoyed
trying to communicate.
The choir concerts provide many benefits for
both the Sailors and Marines and the local communities.
"One benefit is that the community gets
to see that the Sailors and Marines have other interests, other than
the military," said Capt. Gerry Mauer, USS NASSAUís
Commanding Officer. "I attended one performance. It was very
upbeat. It was a very conservative church and someone commented to
me afterward that they had never seen such a lively performance in
"The performances benefit the Navy by
getting Sailors and Marines out there to show the uniform,"
Capt. Mauer said. "The more you get into the community the more
that people get to see that we are people just like them."
|"The concerts allow
USS NASSAUís Sailors and Marines the opportunity to
interact with the community." Lt. Cmdr. Person said.
"It gives them a chance to make new friends."
The choir performances are
coordinated by USS NASSAUís Command Chaplain, Cmdr.
Michael L. Schutz.
As choir coordinator, Chaplain Schutz
establishes points of contact via E-mail in each community the
shipís visit prior to the shipís arrival and sets up
performances at local schools and churches. He also provides
logistical support such as arranging bus transportation for the
"The choir performances promote good will
and establish relationships with the foreign countries we
visit." Schutz said. "It allows Sailors and Marines to
have a cross cultural experience within each community. Itís a
win/win situation for the Navy, Marine Corps, the United States and
the local communities."
Performing in the choir in the local community
is a rewarding experience for the crewmembers.
Gunnery Sgt. A. Earl Ashford, of Marine Medium
Helicopter Squardon-162, has performed with the choir in each of the
ports since they first performed in Malta.
"The performance at the Catholic
Cathedral in Palma, Mallorca, was quite an experience," Ashford
said. "We sang during Sunday morning Mass.
"The following Saturday night we
performed at a small Catholic church, which was the most memorable
performance we have done. It was the first time I saw the effect of
singing the Gospel the way we present it," Ashford said.
"People were smiling. They were clapping. It lifted their
spirits. It has happened each time we have performed since then.. As
people came into Mass they were somber. When they left they were
|Petty Officer 1st
Class Sandra Billups, assigned to Tactical Air Control
Squadron 21, has also performed with the choir.
"I joined the choir because I
have sang with choirs in church all my life," Billups
said. "At the time I didnít know that the choir went
out into the community to perform. It was an extra benefit.
We get to see the community in a different
way. When we perform, we are welcomed like we are entering
someoneís home. The people greet us and talk to us. We really get
to experience the true community, not like when you go on a tour and
are treated like a tourist.
"I like to do it because it gives them a
positive view of Americans," she said. "We are
Plans are for the choir to continue performing
in other ports USS NASSAU visits throughout the cruise. The choir
also sings each Sunday for the Protestant services.