By Lt. Andrew Staley
The Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 “Grey Knights” demonstrated their selfless nature by volunteering to tutor students in the English language at two local schools: Instituto Comprensivo Gaetano Ponte (Palagonia Middle School), and Instituto Alberghiero G. Falcone Succursale (Riposto Hotel Management High School).
These schools are part of a comprehensive institute called G. Pointe, consisting of 12 preliminary schools, 19 primary schools and 13 lower secondary schools collectively encompassing approximately 900 students.
At Palagonia Middle School, the children were delighted the Grey Knights were available to assist them in their English education. Sailors taught students different phrases pertaining to Sicilian and American food, lifestyle, travel, and tourism. Essential for the students to learn as they grow from being adolescents in Sicily and embark on their journey across the globe. This was accomplished with the use of interactive marionette puppets!
“It was awesome to see how excited the kids were,” stated Naval Air Crewman 1st Class FIRST Maringo, VP-46 acoustic sensor operator. “They were very well prepared and absorbed the English lessons well. We learned just as much, if not more, about Italian and Sicilian culture and language.”
“Today we are living an important moment because we are starting a collaboration with the US Navy at the base in Sigonella,” stated Grazia Poma, Palagonia, middle school headmaster. “A strong bond of friendship. We give them a warm welcome in our school.”
A week thereafter, the Grey Knight family assisted in the education of the students at Riposto Hotel Management High School on the topic of cyberbullying, a rising issue with modern media, especially in this ongoing COVID environment. The students were pleased to have the opportunity to learn English on this topic to help spread awareness on a growing issue.
After classes, the students in the culinary department of the school prepared a meal for the volunteers, thus integrating Sicilian and American hospitality and developing a strong sense of comradery with the host nation and MPRA squadrons.
“It was a great privilege to help the students,” Lt. j.g. Kevin Gable, VP-46 co-tactical coordinator. “They taught us just as much by sharing their culture and experiences. Community outreach is a great opportunity we as Grey Knights can use to assist the local community while being deployed here.”
VP-46 is currently forward deployed to the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations and is assigned to Commander, Task Force 67, responsible for tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons throughout Europe and Africa.
Task Force 67 is composed of helicopters and land-based maritime patrol aircraft that operate throughout European and African waters in anti-submarine, search-and-rescue, reconnaissance, surveillance, and mining roles. Task Force 67′s official mission is to provide responsive, interoperable, and expeditionary combat ready maritime patrol aircraft and supporting forces to U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.