By Lt. Andrew Staley, VP-46 public affairs officer
“Grey Knights” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 supported an environmental initiative held at Three Rock Beach, near the town center of the coastal village of Riposto, April 7, 2021.
The volunteers assisted in the initial phase of the project by gathering and consolidating garbage that had been littered and blown onto the beach near the marina.
“It was an awesome opportunity to get out in Sicily and strengthen relationships between U.S. Sailors and Sicilians,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 1st Class Zania Saunders, aviation maintenance administration leading petty officer. “And what better way than to clean up a beach.”
Some of the locals in the area like Carmelo D’Urso, who serves as the Environmental Chairman in Riposto, said that the relationship between the squadron and the community serves an important purpose in bridging the gap between cultures as well has preserving the area’s historical significance.
“The initiative was part of an ongoing environmental program, supported by volunteer organizations such as VP-46 that is aimed at promoting the natural beauty of this historic beach used by fishermen and beachgoers,” said D’Urso.
Present at the clean-up to express the village’s gratitude was the Enzo Caragliano Sindaco di Riposto, Mayor of Riposto. Ecstatic to see the beach refurbished and that the Grey Knights were at the frontlines of the initiative commencement, the Riposto locals expressed their gratitude to the volunteers with local Sicilian enthusiasm.
“Today’s project was conducted by a group of volunteers from the Aviation Squadron VP-46 to give back as part of a community relations program which has started full speed ahead and will continue in the weeks to come.” said Dr. Alberto Lunetta, Naval Air Station Sigonella Community Relations (COMREL) director.
COMREL projects such as this beach and marina clean up gives Sailors a unique opportunity to make a difference for the locals in Sicily.
As the Sicilians prepare for another Mediterranean summer after two years of a nationwide lockdown, Sailors like Lt. Andrew Staley, VP-46 public affairs officer and patrol plane pilot, said that it’s essential that local attractions such as Three Rock Beach return to their natural state of beauty.
“To actively see the transformation of this beach as the Grey Knights reconditioned it truly developed an internal sense of accomplishment and satisfaction,” said Staley. “The smiles and gratitude of the local citizens are what these programs are all about, and we are honored to be a part of such a unique opportunity for culture immersion and selfless service with our host nation.”
With five previous COMREL events, the Grey Knights have amounted 560 hours of community service during their Sixth Fleet deployment.
“Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced, and cleaning Three Rock Beach was an experience I will never forget,” said Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Lonnell Taylor, maintenance control chief.
VP-46 is currently forward deployed to the US 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.