By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Don Patton, USS Blue Ridge Public Affiars
HONG KONG – U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) arrived in Hong Kong for a port visit during its 2016 patrol season April 29.
The Blue Ridge team, consisting of more than 900 members, including embarked 7th Fleet staff, Marines from Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC) and the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 are currently on patrol in the Indo-Asia-Pacific strengthening and fostering relationships in the region.
During the visit, Blue Ridge Sailors will volunteer within in the local community through two community service projects and various band performances.
Blue Ridge last visited Hong Kong, 20 March 2015.
“When we go out to conduct these community service events people don’t see us as just Sailors, they see us Americans,” said Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Brian Jewell, Blue Ridge’s community service coordinator. “Going out to do something positive in the community not only reflects well on us, but it also allows the local community to see the United States as a whole in a positive light.”
Local families in Hong Kong will also host Sailors and Marines at their homes or provide for them a personalized tour, showing them around the city through the Meals in the Homes program.
“I am really excited to meet the family that will host us,” said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Kayla Saint-Fleur. This is my first time in Hong Kong and I think it will be a good experience to learn about the culture and people first hand with a local family.”
“I’ve signed up for one of these events before, and it was great to see them show their appreciation for the jobs that we do as Sailors,” said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Casey Pruitt, “and we return the favor by exchanging stories and showing our appreciation to for their hospitality.”
Blue Ridge’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee also organized other tours providing Sailors and Marines a the chance to experience the history and culture of Hong Kong more intimately.
“These tours offer Sailors a chance to see and discover aspects of the local history that they might not have found on their own,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Anika Miller, Blue Ridge’s MWR coordinator.
“These engagements from the littlest to the largest are big contributors in strengthening our relationships throughout the region,” continued Jewell. “These opportunities give Sailors a chance to leave a lasting impression on people who may never have the chance to meet another American.”