Story by PO3 Dylan C Mckay on 03/12/2019MANILA, Philippines (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff arrived in Manila, Mar. 13, for the ship's first port visit to the Philippines in three years.
The Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet team undertook a cooperative deployment with Philippine Navy (PN) BRP Davao Del Sur LD602 shortly before arriving in Manila to reaffirm longstanding ties with PN counterparts.
This port visit offers opportunities to reconnect after a few years away and staff talks aboard Blue Ridge will provide a venue for professional exchanges with PN counterparts. The crew will continue the tradition of community service events and cultural exchange ashore, including multiple 7th Fleet band engagements and community relations events.
"Our nations are longstanding allies and our navies have worked together for generations," said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. "Our visit to Manila strengthens the bonds between our navies and our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific."
Blue Ridge commanding officer, Capt. Eric Anduze, will meet with PN officials and distinguished visitors for a tour of the flagship to explain the ship's mission and goals.
"We are very proud to be back in Manila after a long absence," Anduze said. "The Philippines has been an ally of our country for many years, and being able to show our appreciation for that friendship is something we always look forward to continuing to foster and maintain our deep relationships here are paramount to what we do in 7th Fleet."
During the visit, 7th Fleet and Blue Ridge Sailors will spend time playing a friendly basketball game with a local college, and reading to children in local neighborhoods around Manila.
Chief Religious Program Specialist Ana Douglas is leading these events for more than 30 Sailors from the 7th Fleet-Blue Ridge team.
"It is always a great opportunity to participate in community events with children in other nations," said Douglas. "It gives our Sailors a unique chance to experience cultures outside of what we see in our homeport. I always leave events like these with a smile on my face."
Many Filipino-American Sailors will also have the chance to reconnect with their heritage during the port visit. One such Sailor, Seaman Charmaine Dalusung, will see the country she was born in for the first time since she was a child.
"I am very excited to come back to my first home," said Dalusung. "It's been a very long time since I've seen the friends and family I grew up with, so I'm extremely grateful to the Navy for giving me the opportunity to reconnect with my roots and culture."
Blue Ridge recently completed a nearly 2-year extended dry-dock selected restricted availability period and numerous certifications, to ensure she remains ready to provide security in the Indo-Pacific region. Blue Ridge is commanded by Capt. Eric Anduze and serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force.
For more news from USS Blue Ridge, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lcc19/.