KOROR, Palau -- The ballistic missile defense destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) arrived in Palau, Feb. 4, for a five-day port visit.
While in Palau, Higgins Sailors will conduct several community service events including repairing two high schools damaged by Super Typhoon Bopha. The storm struck on Dec. 2 producing winds of approximately 155 miles per hour and left extensive damage to infrastructure, power lines and roads. Higgins plans to host onboard training for maritime law enforcement and emergency management organizations as well.
Higgins and the American Ambassador to Palau plan to host a reception aboard as well during their time in port.
Cmdr. Andrew Carlson, Higgins commanding officer looks forward to the visit and the benefits it could bring for both nations. He said, “Palau and the U.S. have a close relationship governed by the Compact of Free Association (COFA). The U.S. is responsible for the defense of Palau.” He stressed the importance of strengthening the solid friendship that has formed between the two nations and hopes the visit will reinforce the United States’ dedication to the area. He said, “A ship visit to Palau is a tangible symbol of U.S. commitment in the region and continued interest in ensuring a climate for regional stability and economic prosperity.”
Gunners Mate First Class Petty Officer Ramon Villarreal, the community relations coordinator onboard, is eager to make a difference in Palau. He said, “I’m looking forward to learning about the local culture and lending a hand to the community.” Many sailors will be volunteering their time over the course of the port visit to revamp the schools that were damaged by the recent storm. Villarreal said, “I want to volunteer my time to projects that involve helping others. I hope it will further our relationship with the people of Palau.”
Feb. 4 marks the first port visit of Higgins's 2013 deployment. The ship departed San Diego, Jan. 14, with the Nimitz Surface Action Group (SAG), which also includes embarked Destroyer Squadron 23, guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Shoup (DDG 86), and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110). The SAG expects to be deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions.