DARWIN, Australia - The U.S 7th Fleet flagship and staff completed an event-filled six day port visit in Darwin, Australia, with a ceremonial celebration on board flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) July 4.
The celebration was two-fold, celebrating Australia's Territory Day on July 1, as well as America's Independence Day on July 4 to conclude a successful week-long port visit to Australia's Northern Territory capital filled with community service projects, military to military interactions, band performances and sporting events.
The port visit also allowed for integrated planning of the upcoming Talisman Saber 2013 exercise to be held off the coast of Australia later this month.
Vice Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet and Capt Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Blue Ridge also attended a flag raising ceremony celebrating Territory Day on July 1, marking the commencement of Self Government in the Territory in 1978. The event was hosted by Chief Administrator for the Northern Territory Sally Thomas and The Right Worshipful Lord Mayor of Darwin Ms. Katrina Fong Lim. The ceremony also served as a naturalization ceremony for dozens of new Australian citizens.
"It was fantastic to have the 7th fleet here; everyone loves it," added Mayor Lim. "People are really happy to see the ship and see the Sailors and Marines around the city enjoying themselves and our fantastic city."
The city of Darwin was full of festivities for Territory Day and over 1000 Sailors and Marines were able to enjoy the day with our Australian hosts. The day ended with a large fireworks display over Darwin's popular Mindil Beach.
"These types of celebrations are really important for cross country communication and bonding," said Mayor Lim. "4th of July I know is very important for Americans and its really interesting that we celebrate our 1st of July Territory Day with a massive display of fireworks; hopefully that made you feel not so much homesick."
2013 mark's the 70th Anniversary of the founding of 7th Fleet in Brisbane Australia, celebrated during a July 4th Celebration on board Blue Ridge. Vice Adm. Swift hosted honored guests Jeffrey Bleich, U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Peter Styles, Australian Minister of Infrastructure, and Brigadier General John Frewen, Commander, Australian Army First Brigade. Mayor Lim was also in attendance.
"We have had a very successful engagement here with both the local and state level government," said Australian Lt. Cmdr. Matt Dunn, Theater Security Cooperation officer and Australian liaison officer for the 7th Fleet. "I think the crew has enjoyed their time in Darwin and our time on Blue Ridge has been very welcoming,"
Dunn has been stationed on Blue Ridge for one and a half years and helped coordinate the week's events as well as the upcoming joint exercise Talisman Saber 2013 (TS13). Planning for TS13 is underway and is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defence Force Headquarters Joint Operations Command scheduled to occur in July/August 2013.
Blue Ridge and embarked 7th Fleet staff are currently on patrol operating forward while building maritime partnerships and conducting security and stability operations.