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Blue Ridge, 7th Fleet Wrap Philippine Visit

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050322-05
Release Date: 3/22/2005 5:00:00 PM

From USS Blue Ridge and U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and the embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff departed Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, March 20 after successful visits to Manila and the former U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay.

Blue Ridge arrived in Manila March 15 for a day of military-to-military talks. These talks centered on a variety of issues of common interests between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.

Meanwhile on the ship's mess decks, Filipina pop star Cielito "Pops" Fernandez treated the crew to a personal appearance with fans. Fernandez said she was impressed with the hospitality of the crew, and she was in awe with the size of Blue Ridge.

"I have seen ships like this in the movies, but I have never been aboard a ship like this before. This is larger than life," Fernandez said, as she signed autographs and posed for photos with Sailors and Marines.

Although Blue Ridge's visit to the Philippine capital was only a day long, it left a lasting positive impression. The command's Junior Sailor Association (JSA) collected donations of food, clothing and toiletries for the Bantay Bata 163 orphanages in Manila.

"It was a 7th Fleet and Blue Ridge helping hands project that went down successfully," said Operations Specialist Seaman Veronica Dinse of the JSA. "It was a pleasure helping the Philippines."

The JSA collected 70 boxes of food and clothing for the children. The orphanage is run by the Bantay Bata organization, which was established to help children by offering foster homes and medical care. "Bantay Bata" means "watching the children" in Tagalog.

The following day, Blue Ridge departed Manila and headed north toward the former U.S. Navy Base at Subic Bay, where the Sailors and Marines enjoyed three days of rest and relaxation in what is now known as Subic Bay Freeport.

During the visit, 7th Fleet Band performed a public concert to a full house in the Subic Bay Performing Arts Center. The Navy musicians treated the crowd to a mixture of soul, rock and contemporary music.

"The audience was familiar with our type of music and really receptive," said Musician 2nd Class Lloyd Whitty, a native of Memphis.

Other Sailors, however, enjoyed the hospitality of the people and some friendly competition. Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Frank Dempsey got the chance to hoop it up in a basketball game against some local athletes.

"The level of competition was awesome. It made the whole experience better," said Dempsey.

Away from the sports complex and out in the community, Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet Sailors and Marines donated a day of their time March 19 to paint the East Tapinac Elementary School in Olongapo City. In return, the students treated the volunteer workers to a special Filipino cultural presentation. Students from every grade gave musical performances, sang a welcome song and demonstrated traditional Filipino dances.

Dr. Zenia G. Mostoles, principal of East Tapinac Elementary School, was very honored and thankful for the work the Blue Ridge/7th Fleet team did at her school.

"We feel so lucky to have the Blue Ridge here to help us, and the kids were so excited to have you here to watch their cultural presentation," said Mostoles.

The next day, Blue Ridge said goodbye to Subic Bay, as they continued their deployment.

Blue Ridge, a Blue Ridge-class amphibious command and control ship, is the command ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet. Commanded by Capt. J. Stephen Maynard, of Kettering, Ohio, Blue Ridge supports a variety of missions by providing a robust communications suite to allow the 7h Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, and his embarked staff, to provide guidance and direction to U.S. Naval Forces in the region.

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