SAIPAN, United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (May 27, 2011)
– Sailors of the USS Cowpens (CG 63) were treated with a taste of home as they pulled in to port in Saipan today. Saipan is the largest island in the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The island of Saipan greeted the Sailors warmly with the Taste of the Marianas Island Festival. The festival shared many aspects of the Mariana Islands culture. From island dancing to the many different kinds of food found on the islands, the Sailors found the festival quite enjoyable. “There was a lot of good food, and the people here are very pretty. I enjoy the culture very much,” said Ensign D’Juan Wilcher. The island council received Captain Robert Marin, Commanding Officer of the Cowpens on stage with an official welcome and a ball cap trading ceremony.
Many Sailors took the time to relax and enjoy the many historical sites and dive opportunities provided. “This is definitely in my top three dive spots in the world,” commented Seaman Ryan Comtois. “I also like that there’s so much military history on this island and that it’s also a US territory.”
Even while the ship enjoyed a relaxing port visit, her Sailors were also giving back to the island. Thirty-seven sailors from Cowpens volunteered with the Dioceses of Chalan Kanoa, Saipan. They spent the day working with local volunteers in a beautification and restoration project for one of two public cemeteries on Saipan. “I always enjoy helping people out,” said Boatswains Mate Third Class Mercedes Logan. “And this was an especially moving project, cleaning the cemetery so that their loved ones have a nice place to go and pay their respects.”
Saipan is famous for the Battle of Saipan, which took place during World War II. From June 15, 1944 to July 9, 1944, US Marine and Army Soldiers fought the Japanese Army for the island. Upon securing the island, the airfields provided the United States the ability to launch air raids on the Japanese main islands using the new B-29 bombers. During the campaign for the islands, many Japanese civilians and soldiers committed suicide rather than be captured by US forces.
Cowpens is a Ticonderoga Class guided missile cruiser assigned to the George Washington Strike Group and currently undergoing unit level training.