By Lt. j.g. Christopher Reeves
Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 has been awarded the 2016 Personal Excellence Flagship Award for medium sea commands by the Navy Community Service Program. This award recognizes commands whose personnel engage in voluntary community service activities that promote academics, life skills, and civic education for youth.
The HSM-70 "Spartans" volunteered 222 cumulative hours working with students at Chimney Lakes Elementary School in Jacksonville.
These volunteers were given the opportunity to work with more than 1,200 students in eight different classrooms. HSM-70 volunteers mentor students and stress the importance of education and physical fitness. Several of HSM-70's Sailors made real connections with the students and their mentorship resulted in the students greatly improving their reading abilities.
"Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things that we can do as service members. I take great pride in my service to both communities abroad and our local community. Chimney Lakes Elementary has shown us great support and has been very accepting of our Sailors. The look on the student's faces when we come to serve in the classrooms makes my day each time we go. I believe having students that enjoy seeing us gives us more opportunity to make an impact," said AWR1 Daniel Anderson, lead organizer for this program.
"Over the last year we have made a large impact on the student's grades and morale in the classrooms. We show support for all students, but we also get the privilege to support those students with military parents that are serving overseas. I look forward to continuing to support Chimney Lakes Elementary because it improves both the students and our Sailors."
HSM-70 also volunteered to host the annual culture day at the elementary school. The Spartans discussed the countries they had visited on various deployments, and provided real life experience on the many different cultures of the world.
The squadron is now over three months into a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Gulf with Carrier Air Wing 8. HSM-70 flies the MH-60 Romeo with two primary missions of anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare. The Sailors continue to communicate with Chimney Lakes through a pen-pal program that encourages the students to write, and provides a morale boost for the deployed Spartans. Upon completion of their deployment, the Sailors plan to continue their volunteer work with Chimney Lakes Elementary School.