OTARU, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed Otaru, Japan, after a four-day port visit devoted to boosting U.S.-Japanese ties July 22.
During the visit, Blue Ridge crew members, embarked 7th Fleet Staff, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 and Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific hosted a ceremony on the main deck for local military and government leaders and enjoyed some of Otaru and Sapporo's rich culture.
"It's important to maintain a strong partnership with our Japanese allies because we work together so often to maintain regional security," said Chief Quartermaster Andrey Mihaylovski.
The capabilities of that partnership were on display in the neighboring city of Sapporo. The fifth largest city in Japan hosted an air show in which Japanese and American pilots performed highly skilled maneuvers.
HSC-12 flew their MH-60S Seahawk helicopters from Blue ridge's flight deck to Okadama Airport in Sapporo to put them on display for all the spectators to see.
"It was a really great experience," said Lt. Sam Reno, a pilot from the HSC-12 detachment aboard Blue Ridge. "My favorite thing was taking pictures with all the smiling children."
For some Blue Ridge Sailors, the air show was a major highlight of the port visit.
"I had a great time," said Yeoman 2nd Class Shane Belgrave. "It was great to see the awesome capabilities of each country's aircraft."
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.