- The U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier arrived in Hong Kong for its second, routine port visit of its 2012 patrol.
Prior to this port visit, USS George Washington (CVN 73) conducted a tri-lateral exercise and other operations with ships and aircraft of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy.
"Every opportunity we get to conduct exercises and maneuvers at sea with all maritime countries of the western Pacific increases collective, regional maritime security and stability," said Capt. David A. Lausman, George Washington's commanding officer. "Through these critical interactions, we constantly increase our combined interoperability and understanding of each other that are essential components to eliminating misunderstanding and miscalculations."
This visit marks the third time George Washington has visited Hong Kong since relieving the now decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as the fleet's forward-deployed aircraft carrier in 2008.
Guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63), and guided-missile destroyers USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS Lassen (DDG 82), along with the Destroyer Squadron 15 staff, are also visiting as part of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, which is led by Commander, Task Force 70.
"Hong Kong remains one of the crown jewels of liberty ports for the crew. As part of the Navy's forward-deployed naval force, our crew is fortunate to have the opportunity to visit this great city on a regular basis," said Lausman. "One of the crew's favorite activities remains our strong community service program, where Sailors volunteer their liberty to participate in activities with various local community centers, schools and hospitals. We have interacted with several of these organizations multiple times, and I have had the unique pleasure to watch these friendships blossom and grow with each successive visit."
During its port visit, George Washington will host a reception for more than 500 military and civilian dignitaries, conduct tours of the ship for more than 1,000 guests and participate in 12 community service projects (COMSERV) sponsored by the ship's Command Religious Ministries Department.
"These [COMSERV] projects help give our Sailors a sense of unity and compassion for the people they serve. They go out and help people who are in need and it gives them a sense of responsibility as well," said Principle Assistant of Command Religious Ministries Lt. Cmdr. Young Song, from San Diego. "As for the people who are receiving this help, they realize that we are here for their well-being because they do not expect help from military members. It is a conduit to build a great nation-to-nation relationship, and it is extremely important for us to create a strong image while representing U.S. forces abroad."
The aircraft carrier's Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) team will also be providing 13 tours for the crew to experience all that Hong Kong has to offer.
"The tours give the sailors an opportunity to explore Hong Kong and get some historical information about some of the sights they are seeing," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Stephanie Mae, from Fort Worth, Texas. "I will be doing four of the tours myself; I am going to Disneyland, the Aberdeen and Harbor Night Cruise, the Lantau Tour and The Land Between Tour. I am really excited to be visiting [Hong Kong]."
Many of the Sailors have been to Hong Kong before, but for new crew members such as Airman Brandon Fought, from Sand Springs, Okla., this is their first time experiencing this port.
"This is my first time here and I am curious to see what this country is like," said Fought. "I will also be representing the George Washington on the rugby team on the fourth day so I am excited."
George Washington departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka on May 26 for its 2012 patrol. George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.