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Coronado, U.S. 7th Fleet Conclude Subic Bay Visit

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040426-08

Release Date: 4/26/2004 9:06:00 PM

By Journalist Seaman Nathan Gomez, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

ABOARD USS CORONADO, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Coronado (AGF 11) left Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, April 26 following a three-day port visit.

For the San Diego-based ship, currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility as the temporary flagship for U.S. 7th Fleet, it was the first visit to this tropical Asian nation.

During the first night in port, Vice Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, held a reception aboard for members of the Philippine military, U.S. embassy and other dignitaries, including the chief of naval operations for the Philippine navy, Vice Adm. Ernesto De Leon.

Sailors were excited for the opportunity to see a port that many had heard of from older Sailors, but had not seen. U.S. Navy ships have not made a port visit to the Philippines in more than two years.

"I think it's going great," said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Tshombe Harris of the visit. "It's an excellent opportunity for 7th Fleet to come to the Philippines, and for the Philippine government to interact with the 7th Fleet admiral and staff, to get relations built back up in this area."

The ship also opened itself for a tour by some Philippine navy sailors from the Naval Education and Training Command. They were shown the flight deck, mess decks and the bridge, among other locations.

Off the ship, the Coronado/7th Fleet team made a huge impact and impression on local folks. The 7th Fleet Band played two concerts for the citizens around the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, at the old naval base site, and in Olongapo City, outside the gates.

Musician 2nd Class Christopher Beeler said the band was more than happy to be a part of it.

"There was a lot of enthusiasm in the band to get out into Subic Bay," he said, "especially since we haven't been there in a long time. We saw just as much enthusiasm in the crowd, and they were almost as excited as we were. The band sounded great, and it was the most positive experience I've had in a long time."

Sailors also put their back into helping their hosts, when 35 Sailors, officers and enlisted volunteered for a community relations project, painting school buildings at the Iram Elementary School in Olongapo City.

"We are very glad that you visited one of the remotest schools [in Olongapo]," said Principal Pastor Padua. "The whole community would like to extend their gratitude and welcome to our small village."

The school, which supports 521 students from the area, still shows signs of the damage it suffered during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Coronado contributed the supplies for the project from excess materials aboard.

"We came here to restore school houses," said Harris, the project's coordinator. "They needed painting, roofs needed repairing, and some of the windows needed repairing, so we came here to help them out."

"All the Sailors are having fun. Everyone is laughing, smiling, getting paint on themselves, but we're all enjoying it," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Maria Rose. "I'm glad I did this one. It's really nice; it's working out really well. We've accomplished a lot. We were supposed to do two buildings, but we did four and inside one classroom."

Coronado is commanded by Capt. Chris Noble. The ship is experimenting with a unique manning concept. The crew is made up of civilian mariners from the Military Sealift Command (MSC) and a small group of Sailors, and is designed to replace the 481 Sailors normally assigned to Coronado. The combined MSC/Navy crew of 263, and some augmentees from 7th Fleet's regular flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), support the embarked 7th Fleet staff.



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