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Fort McHenry Makes Goodwill Port Visit to Russia

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS030711-13

Release Date: 7/14/2003 7:15:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Robert Sealover, USS Fort McHenry Public Affairs

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (NNS) -- USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Lassen (DDG 82), along with Marines assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, visited the Russian port of Vladivostok July 3-7 to continue building friendship and cooperation between the United States and Russia.

Instead of celebrating Independence Day with barbecues and picnics, Fort McHenry crew members took part in a wreath laying ceremony honoring Russian Sailors who were killed in action during World War II.

"World War II was a combined operation," said Cmdr. Adrian Jansen, Fort McHenry's commanding officer. "Many nations, including Russia, suffered the loss of many of their people, fighting in the interest of freedom. By laying a wreath at the Russian Memorial, we as Americans pay respect and homage to fallen comrades. What better way to express friendship."

Fort McHenry also invited members of the local community and government and military officials to the ship for a reception celebrating both the ship's visit to Russia and the 227th anniversary of American independence.

"It's fitting that we mark this holiday on board Fort McHenry because of the key roles our navies have played in defending our borders and our people as well as the core values of freedom and democracy," said Pamela Spratlen, American Consul General.

Aside from the official ceremonies and events, the Sailors and Marines who visited Russia were able to spend time in the city interacting with the Russian people and learning about their culture.

"This gives them a great appreciation for our international brothers and one of our newer allies and it gives them an opportunity to learn more about the Russian people," said Maj. Doug Clark, commanding officer of LAR Company, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. "The Russian people are good, honest people in a fledgling democracy and by this visit we'll show that we're in for the long haul and we're here to support them as they build their country up."

"It was a unique opportunity," said Lt. j.g. Elizabeth Simmons, Fort McHenry's communications officer. "I was glad to have been able to see how our counterparts work and live."

This makes the 17th visit by U.S. Navy ships in 13 years, and marks the 2nd year in a row Fort McHenry has made a 4th of July visit to Vladivostok.

"Seeing something more than once always serves to strengthen what you observed the first time," said Jansen. "Clearly, Russia is a strong nation and can be a powerful ally for the United States. But Russia, as it builds itself up as a free and capitalist society, needs to be nurtured and recognized as a friend. Our visits help do that."

Perhaps most importantly, Jansen said, visits like this also serve to break misconceptions and stereotypes.

"All our lives we have been taught that Russia was the enemy. Now, they are not," Jansen said. "I hope all of the crew takes away from their visit, that like they, the Russian people are trying their best to live good lives and that they too only want peace and harmony in the world."

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