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Three CTF 76 Ships Make Simultaneous Port Visits in Japan

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070215-10
Release Date: 2/15/2007 12:36:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Adam R. Cole, Task Force 76 Public Affairs

JAPAN (NNS) -- Three Sasebo-based ships of Task Force 76 made three different Japanese port visits simultaneously beginning Feb. 8, with the last ship departing from its visit Feb. 13.

USS Guardian (MCM 5), USS Patriot (MCM 7) and USS Safeguard (ARS 50) arrived in Shimonoseki, Iwakuni and Kagoshima, respectively.

The crews from each ship engaged with the local communities in a number of planned activities, including courtesy calls on city officials by each ship's commanding officer, visits by Sailors to local children's homes and sports activities.

With Japan playing host in providing U.S. Naval forward presence in the region, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76 Commander Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger feels that reaching out to the Japanese community through port visits is essential to maintaining a strong relationship.

"We enjoy a robust relationship with the Japan Self Defense Forces [JSDF], a relationship that we'd like to grow and extend to as many of the Japanese people as possible," said Pottenger. "These visits are one way to build those relationships by extending a warm greeting to our hosts and friends, and by giving the Japanese people an up close and personal look at our ships and the finest expeditionary Sailors in 7th Fleet."

Officials of each city expressed well wishes for the visiting ships.

"Shimonoseki is closely linked to the sea, as we are surrounded by it on three sides," said the Mayor of Shimonoseki City Kiyoshi Ejima. "We are a city that thrives on the shipping industry. During World War II, our small seaside city was surrounded by a large amount of mines, but due to a joint mine-clearance effort, Shimonoseki is now a thriving multinational port. So, this is a special day for us to have a U.S. Navy minesweeper."

The visit was a way for U.S. Navy personnel to not only meet with members of the community, but also bond with JSDF personnel based there. This was particularly true for Patriot in Iwakuni where Mine Countermeasure Helicopter Squadron 111 is located. Patriot and the squadron squared off in a softball match, while Squadron Commanding Officer Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) Capt. Takeshi Asano and Patriot Commanding Officer Lt. Cmdr. Thomas E. Shultz exchanged official courtesies the day before and on the field as well. Both leaders expressed a resolve for joint cooperation in the region.

In Kagoshima and Shimoneseki, Sailors from Safeguard and Guardian visited children's homes, bringing smiles to children of Taihei Gakuen and Wakaba Gakuen, respectively. Patriot hosted students from M.C. Perry Elementary School, the Department of Defense School at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, giving them an opportunity to walk the deckplate of a mine sweeper.

All commanding officers agreed that the visits were successful and bonds between U.S. Navy and the Japanese community were increased.

"Any time we can visit another place in Japan, it is a treat, for it is only through experience that we can draw closer to this country and its people," said Shultz.

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