Seventh Fleet Kicks off Vietnam Naval Engagement Activities 
SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet kicked off a weeklong series of naval engagement activities with the Vietnam People's Navy Aug. 8 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam.

The activities are centered around non-combatant training, such as damage control, search and rescue, and skills exchanges like cooking and maintenance events. Friendship-building events such as medical and dental civic action projects, an underway aircraft carrier embark, and ship visits and U.S.-Vietnamese Navy sporting events will also take place.

A group of government and military leaders flew from the city of Da Nang to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) to meet with Navy leadership and observe the strike group as it operates in the South China Sea.

The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) will visit Da Nang starting Aug. 10. The ship is named for the father of Sen. John McCain, a respected figure in Vietnam who was a prisoner in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

The engagement activities also include relationship building between participants through medical, dental, and engineering civic action projects as well as community service events.

"This is indicative of the increasingly closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam," said Rear Adm. Ron Horton, commander, Task Force 73 and commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific. "Exchanges like this are vital for our navies to gain a greater understanding of one another, and build important relationships for the future."

The U.S. Navy has had several visits to Vietnam in recent years. The Navy conducted two port visits to Vietnam in 2008. In 2009, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hosted the first-ever fly out of visitors from Vietnam to a U.S. aircraft carrier, and U.S. 7th Fleet command flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), commanded by Vietnamese-American Cmdr. H.B. Le visited in November 2009. The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) also visited Vietnam in May 2010 as part of a large-scale humanitarian assistance mission.

In addition to port visits, two Military Sealift Command ships have undergone voyage repairs at Vietnamese shipyards. The rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), and the dry cargo-ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) in February-March 2010 had work done by Cam Rahn Shipyard, at Hong Koi Port, Van Phong Bay.

Units in Vietnam participating in the exchange include the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), as well as the staff of Task Force 73. The George Washington Carrier Strike Group, to include the destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS McCampbell (DDG 85), will remain at sea during the event.
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