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USS Cleveland Hosts Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071220-13
Release Date: 12/20/2007 11:08:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Grant P. Ammon, USS Cleveland Public Affairs

USS CLEVELAND, At Sea (NNS) -- United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Robert Blake Jr., visited the amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland (LPD 7), Dec. 17, during a training exercise with the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF).

Blake arrived on Cleveland's flight deck aboard a CH-46 from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 (reinforced), and visited for nearly two hours. During his visit, Blake was treated to lunch, a tour of the ship and exchanged gifts with Cleveland's Commanding Officer, Capt. Billy Hart.

"Ambassador Blake's visit during this exercise exemplifies our commitment to building trust and confidence among friends worldwide," said Hart. "Engagements like these demonstrate the importance of working with international partners to ensure global maritime security. It was an honor to have him as a guest of the Cleveland."

The crew and embarked Marines from the 11th Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB 11) worked diligently to prepare for the ambassador's visit.

"The crew worked very hard to prepare for the ambassador's visit," said Command Master Chief (SW/SS) William Steele. "Their hard worked paid off when the ambassador said he couldn't believe Cleveland was more than 40-years-old. Overall, he was very impressed with the cleanliness of our ship."

CLB 11 Marines and Cleveland's crew are participating in Exercise Coconut Grove, which is designed to enhance capabilities and interoperability between U.S. forces and the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF). This bilateral training focuses on squad and platoon level tactics and strengthening military to military relationships.

Naval medical and dental professionals from Cleveland are also working side by side with Maldivian Health Care personnel to enhance and augment the Maldivian Public Health Care System. Projects provided near term dental and ophthalmology treatment to the Maldivian people while providing training to Maldivian doctors in moderately complex procedures for the long term.

Cleveland's participation in this exercise emphasizes the amphibious capability and interoperability between U.S. and MNDF forces.

Cleveland, the Navy's oldest operating amphibious ship, is currently assigned to the Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Group. Embarked with Marines from the 11th Combat Logistics Battalion, Cleveland is currently on deployment to the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.

For more news from USS Cleveland, visit www.navy.mil/local/lpd7/.



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