USS GARY, At Sea (NNS) -- Working alongside multinational naval forces during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, the Oliver Hazard Perry-Class guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) demonstrated her proficiency in gunnery, maritime interdiction operations, helicopter operations, small boat operations, navigation, communication, and ship handling.
Gary began her involvement transiting the Pacific Ocean during a group sail including USS Cape St. George (CG 71), USS Sampson (DDG 102), USCGC Waesche (WMSL 751), USNS Rainier, CNS Blanco Encalada (FF 15), HnoMS Fridt Jof Nansen (F310), and HMCS Calgary (FFH 335).
Operations Officer Lt. William Hessell coordinated most of Gary's participation in RIMPAC.
"Gary was fortunate to participate in DESRON [Destroyer Squadron] 9's multinational group sail en route to Hawaii," Hessell said. "It was an excellent opportunity to work with our coalition partners and rehearse exercises we would conduct during RIMPAC. The highlight was the cross-deck program, which allowed sailors to spend a week on other nations' ships and gain valuable experience in the process."
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Bradly Ingram said participating in the group sail was a unique experience.
"I enjoyed working alongside the foreign nation's ships so closely," he said. "It gives you a kind of bird's-eye view that only the participants could see."
During group sail, the ships performed gunnery exercises, tactical shipboard maneuvers, underway replenishments, helicopter operations, anti-submarine operations, and a passing exercise. Following the group sail, Gary pulled into Pearl Harbor for the RIMPAC in-port phase.
During that time, Gary Sailors served as tour guides and gave more than 90 tours of their frigate. Ship's Serviceman Seaman Joshua Ronquillo not only gave tours, but visited many other ships.
"The best part for me was being able to go see the other ships from different countries on the waterfront," Ronquillo said. "Seeing their traditions, uniforms, and sailors was a very unique opportunity that I will remember for the rest of my life."
Lt. j.g. Andrew Walter was grateful for the opportunity to interact with other sailors from around the world.
"Being able to participate in the Hawaii portion of RIMPAC has been a huge help in understanding the other navies of the world and how they work," he said. "Meeting sailors from different navies in the Navy Exchange, at the sporting events, ship tours, and fun times around Oahu have given personality to the ships we operate with."
Gary crew members enjoyed their liberty in Hawaii, including hiking, scuba, kayaking, and RIMPAC sponsored sporting events with other countries such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, and tennis.
"It's never a bad time to be in Hawaii!" Hessell said.
After the in-port sea phase, Gary departed Pearl Harbor for the at-sea phase portion of RIMPAC.
Lt. Jean-Christophe Berger of the Belgian navy, a foreign exchange officer serving on board Gary, said he's found the exercise both challenging and rewarding.
"RIMPAC gives international participants many opportunities to collaborate together, to demonstrate their material, capacities, and, most importantly, how they operate in a group sail," Berger said. "The main opportunity that RIMPAC represents for these foreign countries is the possibility to work with the U.S. Navy. It is a chance to observe how the most powerful force at sea is able to work with others. Communication is the key to successfully completing the exercises and is an essential element allowing multiple countries to reach shared goals."
Cmdr. Steven McDowell, Gary's commanding officer, said the exercise has provided invaluable training for his ship and crew.
"RIMPAC offers a unique opportunity to meet and work with our international counterparts in an effort that unifies our collective force and enables it to respond more effectively when a crisis arises," he said. "The value of the partnerships that are built and sustained is well worth the effort that goes into planning and executing RIMPAC."
Twenty-two nations, 49 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 26 to Aug. 1 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.