YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) returned to Yokosuka, Japan June 7, after successfully concluding a five-week patrol of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Blue Ridge along with embarked 7th Fleet staff (C7F), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 (HSC 12), and Marines from Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Pacific kicked off a string of port calls with a visit to Thailand, the U.S.'s oldest ally in Southeast Asia. She followed with visits to Malaysia and Indonesia before steaming back to CFAY.
"Blue Ridge completed a very successful underway period thanks to the great work of her crew and the embarked 7th Fleet staff," said Blue Ridge Commanding Officer Capt. Richard McCormack. "The flagship sailed more than 8,400 nautical miles and completed three successful port visits in support of our Theater Security Cooperation mission."
A key component in assuring Blue Ridge is always mission ready, is the implementing of an aggressive underway training schedule, which includes simulated casualties, security breaches and combat scenarios among other things.
Fifty-one enlisted Blue Ridge and C7F Sailors obtained their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) qualification while five more worked diligently to qualify as Surface Warfare Officers during the patrol.
"Qualifying in ESWS is a huge milestone in a surface Sailor's career," said Chief Information Systems Technician William Bennett, Blue Ridge ESWS coordinator. "It proves that he or she is committed to being the best Sailor they can be and that they will be a valuable asset in a time of crisis."
Blue Ridge's Damage Control Training Team also conducted 35 training drills over the course of the patrol. In simulated scenarios, Sailors battled numerous types of fires, ruptured piping systems and repaired critical structural damage.
"The drills improve our ability to confidently work as a team under pressure," said Machinery Repairman 3rd Class (Select) Gabriel Donovan. "Junior Sailors in particular are getting the training they need in order to be prepared to competently handle real-life damage control situations."
While port visits allowed Sailors and Marines an opportunity to relax between underway periods, 74 Blue Ridge crewmembers also volunteered to participate in four community service (COMSERV) events, interacting with 275 local nationals in Malaysia and Thailand.
"Every COMSERV we participated in was a successful," said Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Brian Jewell, lead COMSERV organizer. "They strengthened our partnerships with the host nations we visited and ensured the time we spent with the local nationals was meaningful to all involved."
"Blue Ridge is just one of the many 7th Fleet assets that demonstrate our country's enduring commitment to our allies and friends throughout the region every day," said McCormack.
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the flag ship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.