SAN DIEGO – The crew of USS Russell (DDG 59) hosted the crew of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Ship JS Teruzuki (DD 116) from Oct. 15 to Nov. 6 as the partner nation participated in exercises with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group off the coast of Southern California.
This was the first time Teruzuki had visited the United States, and the ship and crew were the only Japanese ship to participate in the exercises.
After successfully hosting a Chinese frigate in August, the crew of Russell gladly volunteered to play host for international visitors once again.
“This was a great opportunity to learn about another culture and strengthen relations with one of our most important allies,” said Cmdr. James Harney, Russell’s commanding officer.
The ships engaged in mutual tours, a barbecue and a soccer game. One of the most unique aspects of the cultural exchange, however, was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The fort hosts a Veterans Day ceremony, and the commanding officer of Teruzuki, Cmdr. Takayuki Miyaji, desired to lay a wreath to show respect for all the Sailors laid to rest there.
“I was surprised that their wreath ceremonies are so similar to ours,” said Lt. Joseph S. Hamilton, Russell’s operations officer.
Hamilton said that since his next tour will be in Japan, it was great to have an opportunity to learn about the culture beforehand.
The Russell crew benefited greatly from the visit. For some Sailors, it was their first interaction with another culture since joining the Navy.
“These experiences don’t come to many people in their whole lives,” said Hull Technician 3rd Class Thomas F. Williams. “It opens ourselves up to a different perspective that can only help to improve understanding.”
What surprised Russell’s crew most was how similar the cultures are. Many Japanese sailors have actually attended U.S. Navy schools in San Diego, creating an instant rapport with their American brethren.
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Malia J. Scanlan was part of the honor guard at her last command, and participated in the wreath laying ceremony.
“Their formations and marches were essentially the same as ours,” said Scanlan.
Other Sailors noticed that the reasons why Japanese sailors enlist are similar to their own.
There were areas of difference, however, which proved valuable as well. Although both the Russell and Teruzuki are guided missile destroyers with similar weapons systems, their manning and procedures are quite different.
“The most meaningful aspect of this visit for me was learning how they operate and seeing what improvements we can make in our processes,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Zachary T. Quirk.
Russell recently completed an $84 million Extended Dry Dock Selective Restricted Availability (EDSRA). The ship and crew are assigned to Destroyer Squadron 1.