More than 1,200 Sailors and Marines from USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), embarked 7th Fleet staff, and Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC) returned to the ship's forward-deployed port of Yokosuka, Japan on Aug. 29, completing a two and a half-month deployment throughout the Pacific Ocean.
Blue Ridge kicked off the patrol with a three-day visit to Noumea, New Caledonia to strengthen ties between the United States and New Caledonia through shipboard tours and community service projects (COMSERV).
The flagship supported Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet's participation in the combined forces exercise Talisman Sabre 2011 (TS11) while visiting Brisbane and Cairns, Australia, and exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2011 (UFG11) while visiting Busan, Republic of Korea (ROK).
"As a command ship, our mission is to support Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, and to develop and strengthen relationships with our partners in the region," said Blue Ridge commanding officer Capt. Daniel Grieco. "This deployment was a terrific opportunity to do just that and the crew had a great time visiting some fantastic ports of call."
TS11 reinforced joint combat readiness and interoperability between U.S. and Australian air, land and maritime forces, and focused on crisis action planning and execution of emergency response operations. UFG11 strengthened the ROK-U.S. alliance; enhanced the combat readiness of ROK and U.S. forces; demonstrated the combined forces' interoperability; and showcased the U.S. commitment to the ROK-U.S. alliance.
An unexpected benefit to the crew, Grieco authorized Sailors and Marines to enjoy the traditional crossing-of-the-line ceremony, followed by a swim call on the equator and a steel beach picnic Aug. 6 in the Coral Sea.
Blue Ridge is commanded by Capt. Daniel Grieco and serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa Japan with an operations detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
Article by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mel Orr, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs