SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – Sailors from the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and Marines assigned to Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC) completed a port visit to Sihanoukville, Cambodia May 5.
The visit helped demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s commitment to sustaining a strong relationship between the two militaries.
For more than 30 years, Blue Ridge has maintained a presence in the Southeast Asia region by strengthening allied ties through community service projects and conducting joint military exercises with neighboring nations, like Cambodia. These port visits are a tangible symbol of the U.S. commitment in the region and continued interest in ensuring a climate for regional stability and the desire to bridge economic prosperity.
Blue Ridge crewmembers took the opportunity to experience the culture and meet people in the local community.
“I enjoyed my time here,” said Culinary Specialist Seaman Robert Zobel. “The food and the nightlife were great,” he added.
The crew took their involvement in the community to another level by volunteering at community service projects and giving their time to children’s homes and schools.
Sailors visited nearly 200 children from the Sihanoukville Providence and M’Lop Topang children’s educational and social services program organization.
“We had the chance to relive childhood and realize that no matter what the background of an individual is, children are all the same.” “The 7th Fleet Band performed and we played games with the kids,” said Lt. Donald Baker, Blue Ridge chaplain.
Baker added that a musical performance by the 7th Fleet Band was part of the visit. “They performed musical numbers while we played games with the children,” he added.
Some of the community service volunteers paid a visit to a local university as well.
“Visiting the university was my favorite part,” said Baker. “I taught a short theology class to the university students.”
The ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee offered a variety of tours including snorkeling, visits to nearby towns, and a visit to Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple complex in the world.
“I feel grateful that I had the chance to visit Angkor Wat. Not many people get the opportunity to visit that magical place,” said Information Specialist 2nd Class Dexter Balitang.
The visit provided one Sailor the opportunity to meet with distant relatives and visit the country where his family’s roots began.
“I was really excited that we were pulling into my birth country,” said Sar. “It was unreal to know I have a half-brother in another country who I have never met before and was getting the chance to finally connect with him and my father-in-law because of this port visit.”
Cambodian nationals were not the only ones who paid attention to the Sailors and Marines during the visit. Foreign business owners took notice as well.
“It made me feel very proud to be an American when I saw how well Sailors and Marines interacted with locals,” said Andrea Lee, an American restaurant owner residing in Cambodia.
“You're all so nice and you have a great reputation in town for being polite and generous to the local population,” Lee added. “Thank you so much for all that you do for us.”