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Patriot, Salvor Arrive in Ho Chi Minh for Port Visit

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS060703-01
Release Date: 7/3/2006 2:01:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (NNS) -- USS Patriot (MCM 7) and USS Salvor (ARS 52) completed a five-hour, navigationally complex transit down the Saigon River to arrive here for a scheduled port visit July 1 aimed at enhancing U.S.-Vietnam relations and allowing the Sailors of both ships to experience the culture-rich city and outlying area.

The visit will be the fourth U.S. Navy visit to a Vietnamese port and the third to Ho Chi Minh City since normalization of diplomatic relations in 1995. This visit will mark the first time that two U.S. Navy ships visit Vietnam concurrently; their combined crew equals 180 Sailors.

Both ships flew the Vietnamese flag alongside the U.S. flag during the river transit, a symbol, said the commanding officers, of the unified relations that the two nations are continually developing. Such relationship development is the key to this port visit, they said.

“USS Patriot and its crew feel honored to the have the opportunity to visit Vietnam,” said Lt. Cmdr. Richard D. Brawley, Patriot's commanding officer. “While here, Sailors will have the opportunity for positive exchanges with the people of Vietnam and contribute to the community. We are confident that this visit will lead the way for a stronger bilateral relationship between our two countries.”

U.S. Consul General to Vietnam Seth D. Winnick, whose office is in Ho Chi Minh City, embarked Patriot, and three coast guardsmen from the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) boarded Patriot at the mouth of the river, both parties interacting with the crew and learning more about a U.S. Navy ship throughout the extensive transit.

Winnick echoed Brawley’s thoughts on the importance of the visit and what Sailors should be able to get out of it.

“This port visit is a further step to building bilateral ties between these two nations and making relations between the two ever more normalized,” said Winnick from the bridge of Patriot. “This visit should provide the Sailors an incredible opportunity to see and understand Vietnam today, and likewise allow the people here to understand the Sailors and a little more about America. Ho Chi Minh City, and throughout Vietnam, exudes an atmosphere that is very warm and friendly, and I am confident the Sailors will enjoy their visit here.”

During their visit, the crews will carry out a community service project at the Thien Binh Orphanage in Dong Nai Province on two separate days, helping install a number of items to renovate the orphanage.

Sailors will also play a volleyball match with sailors from the PAVN navy, conduct ship tours for invited guests, and enjoy visiting historical and cultural sites around Ho Chi Minh City. The captains of both ships and leading officers will make a number of courtesy calls during the visit, including a floral presentation at Ho Chi Minh City Monument and the People’s Committee, the city’s governing body, on July 3.

“We are glad to welcome them to our country,” said Maj. Le Thanh Hai, one of the coast guardsmen who was on Patriot during the transit. “We feel connected between militaries, between nations…they are friends. We want to show them Vietnam, to experience our country.”

For many of these young Sailors, this visit to Vietnam will undoubtedly be a highlight of their military careers, while further cementing the growing friendship between the U.S. and Vietnamese military services, said Brawley.

Salvor’s commanding officer, Lt Cmdr. Colby Howard, noted the importance of this visit in national diplomacy. “The visit is part of both countries' efforts to promote mutual understanding and continue the improvement of bilateral relations.”

Brawley said his Sailors will exemplify an ambassadorship for America and be respectful of the history and heritage of the Vietnamese people while in port, as they already have throughout the current deployment.

Both Brawley and Howard feel the ships’ deployment milestones will culminate in Vietnam.

“Patriot Sailors, and I am sure Salvor’s too, have come to know and understand several countries throughout Southeast Asia because of this deployment,” said Brawley, whose crew has been involved in two sets of exercises and a number of port visits, including Brunei prior to coming to Vietnam. “We are now doing something that very few Navy ships have had the opportunity to do before us. I know the crew understands the opportunity in front of them and will take full advantage of the experience.”

Patriot is a mine countermeasures ship forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan. Patriot and USS Guardian (MCM 5) serve under Task Force 76, which serves as the U.S. 7th Fleet’s mine countermeasures arm in forward-deployed operations. The ship and embarked Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Detachment (Det) 51 are currently deployed in Southeast Asia to support 7th Fleet’s interoperability and training commitments in mine neutralization warfare and maritime operations.

Salvor, homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is one of the U.S. Navy's four deep-ocean salvage and rescue vessels. The ship and her crew are currently taking part in the three-month Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercise series. CARAT is an annual series of bilateral maritime training exercises between the United States and six Southeast Asia nations designed to build relationships and enhance the operational readiness of the participating forces. As part of the most recent CARAT phase in Thailand, the crew of Salvor, along with embarked divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, completed six days of diving operations on wreckage in the Gulf of Thailand believed to be that of the lost World War II submarine USS Lagarto (SS 371).

For more information on CTF 76, visit www.ctf76.navy.mil.

For related news, visit the Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.

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