Blue Ridge Celebrates 30 Years of Forward Presence
Story Number: NNS090717-13
Release Date: 7/17/2009 1:00:00 PM
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Cynthia Griggs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Members of the Yokosuka community joined with past and present crew members July 17 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the command ship USS Blue Ridge's (LCC 19) arrival in Japan as part of the Navy's Forward Deployed Naval Force.
Blue Ridge is the longest continually forward-deployed ship in Navy history. Formerly an amphibious command ship, it arrived in Yokosuka July 17, 1979, to relieve USS Oklahoma City (CG-5) as the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.
Vice Adm. John Bird, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet said Blue Ridge is a unique ship that plays a key role in the diplomacy of the United States.
"It gives us tremendous engagement capability that is visible, positive and meaningful," said Bird. He said Blue Ridge is "hands down the most powerful C4I platform anywhere on earth."
Bird credited Japan, and especially the people of Yokosuka, for their role in supporting Blue Ridge.
"The friendship we have here has a huge impact thousands of miles from this harbor. The efforts of the people here in Yokosuka to maintain and support this ship contribute to peace and stability all around the region."
U.S. 7th Fleet is the only fleet in the Navy to be under the command and control of a permanently afloat staff. The ship participates in combined training exercises, and supports staff talks and engagement activities all around the Western Pacific and Indian oceans.
"For thirty years, Blue Ridge has been tasked with maintaining peace and stability throughout this very important region of the world," said Capt. Thom Burke, Blue Ridge's commanding officer. "This is a very tall order, and the Sailors who served on Blue Ridge always made great things happen."
Burke credited Japanese shipyard workers from Ship Repair Facility Yokosuka for their ability to constantly upgrade Blue Ridge with the latest commercial and military communication capabilities, making Blue Ridge among the most technologically advanced ships in the world despite the fact that it has not seen a U.S. shipyard in more than 30 years.
"Many things about the ship have changed over the years," said Lt. Steven Benefield, who served aboard as a junior enlisted Sailor from 1995 to 1998 and returned in 2007 as the chaplain. "However, one thing remains the same - she has always been and continues to be the best ship on the waterfront."
Blue Ridge was commissioned Nov. 14, 1970 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and is the third Navy vessel to carry the name. The ship is currently completing a maintenance availability period in preparation for continued fleet operations this fall.
For more news from USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), visit www.navy.mil/local/lcc19/.
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