Blue Ridge, 7th Fleet Enjoy Liberty in Malaysia
Story Number: NNS050307-07
Release Date: 3/7/2005 2:28:00 PM
By Journalist 2nd Class Hodges Pone III, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs
ABOARD USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed Port Kelang, Malaysia, March 6 after a three-day port visit.
While in Malaysia, Blue Ridge and U.S. 7th Fleet Sailors enjoyed shopping, sports and engaging their Malaysian hosts in community service projects.
Although the ship was moored in Port Kelang, most of the action took place in the neighboring city of Kuala Lumpur. While some visited the market in Chinatown, where they could haggle for great deals on merchandise, others stuck to the traditional shopping venues with the numerous floors and corridors of countless shopping malls in the city.
"The KLCC (Kuala Lampur City Center) mall was great. The shops were so classy," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Jonathan Elosegui of Blue Ridge's Operations department. "They had high quality and very stylish clothing in the stores."
While many Sailors attacked the shopping scene like well-trained athletes, Sailor-athletes from the ship took to the field or courts to face off with Malaysian teams in friendly competition. The Blue Ridge softball and basketball teams saw their fair share of action.
Photographer's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Terry Spain, captain of the "B" basketball team, said his squad played a high-tempo game.
"We played a team from the Malaysian Amateur Basketball Association, who played with high intensity," said Spain, a Myrtle Beach, S.C., native.
After a long layoff, the softball team shook off the rust and swung for the fences in a seven-inning triumph over a Malaysian softball league team.
"Interacting with the Malaysian team was the best part of the game," said Chief Master-at-Arms (SW), Roderick Harris, a Warner-Robbins, Ga., native. "It was a fun experience for both teams, and we will all come away with some memories from that game."
A core of about 40 Sailors and Marines passed on shopping and sports opportunities for one day to volunteer their muscles and hearts at a community service project at the Shepard Center, an orphanage and vocational training school for abandoned children.
The ship's volunteer force cleared debris and knocked down a structure, clearing space for a future learning and recreation area. The children and orphanage staff showed their appreciation to the Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet team by fixing a tasty lunch.
Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Joe Wyly organized the project with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia. Wyly felt this particular volunteer project had the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for both the students and staff at the Shepard Center.
"We get a lot of offers, but we choose the ones which will have a bigger impact on the community," said the Kansas, Okla., native. "We chose this one because the children are not only going to make an impact on today, but they are going to impact the future, as well."
While everybody at the Shepard Center appreciated the community service efforts, the project participants were just as thankful about the opportunity and what they gained from it. Operations Specialist Seaman Veronica Dinse said the courage displayed by the orphaned children, when faced with adversity, made her realize how lucky she is.
"Seeing the children made me realize how fortunate I really am, and how much perseverance a child will show to attain an education," said Dinse, a San Bernardino, Calif., native. "I got to spend time with a 14-year-old child from the orphanage who recently started second grade. Meeting him showed me that no one should ever take something as serious as your education for granted."
One thing Sailors and Marines aboard Blue Ridge said they wouldn't take for granted was the opportunity to visit Malaysia in the future.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Barbara Macedo said she enjoyed Malaysia, and said anyone with the chance to visit should jump at the opportunity.
"Malaysia is interesting," said the Stockton, Calif., native. "I had lots of fun there, and it's definitely one of the nicest places I have ever been."
Blue Ridge, an amphibious command ship, is the flagship of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. Yokosuka, Japan-based Blue Ridge provides the highest quality capability for seagoing command-and-control of theater level forces by naval and joint commanders during peacetime or conflict and provides preeminent naval support for U.S. diplomatic initiatives and objectives.
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