Blue Ridge Visits Otaru to Strengthen Enduring Partnership 
OTARU, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) arrived in Otaru, July 18, to build upon a strong partnership that continues to provide security, stability, peace and prosperity to the Pacific region.

Blue Ridge's crew along with embarked 7th Fleet staff, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 and Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific will host guided ship tours for distinguished visitors and take in the sights around Otaru to include the Otaru Aquarium, the Museum of Venetian Art and an air show in the neighboring town of Sapporo.

"This is a great opportunity for our Sailors to get out and see a different part of the country they are forward deployed to," said Lt. Anthony Stallings, Blue Ridge chaplain. "Not many people get to go to all the places we do, and these opportunities are really great for the crew. I always hear them talking about how excited they are whenever we come into a new port."

For many Sailors the highlight of the visit will be the air show in Sapporo, which will showcase aircraft from both the Japanese and U.S. militaries, including a display of HSC 12's MH-60S "Seahawk" helicopters.

"It's been quite a few years since I've gone to an air show," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Krishana Mathis. "I love seeing all the different types of jets and helicopters doing complex flight formations and tricks in the air."

Blue Ridge previously visited Otaru in February 2008.

Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the flagship 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.
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