YOKOSUKA, Japan - Four South Korean midshipmen embarked USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in Cairns, Australia, Aug. 2, and spent the next several weeks learning the similarities and differences between the two navies.
Sangsu Kwon, Min Sakong, Seongkoo Hong, and Gyunan Park's arrival was part of a military exchange program coordinated by Blue Ridge staff and the Republic of Korea Naval Academy. The riders spent 11 days observing and participating in some of the ship's training evolutions and took part in the crossing-the-line ceremony.
Training Officer Lt. Valerie Greenaway, who worked with the midshipmen, said the visit was a great opportunity to strengthen ties.
"It's been a great effort to increase foreign relations and allow them to experience the daily operations of a U.S. Navy warship," she said.
With the exception of Park, who has traveled to China and Thailand, it was the group's first time outside of Korea.
"It's been awesome," said Park. "I've learned about American culture and met so many people."
While aboard, they also focused on how the exchange could enhance their military careers as Korean naval officers.
"I see that there are many good practices that hopefully I can take back and apply to the Korean Navy," said Kwon.
One thing the midshipmen will take back with them is the experience of the crossing-the-line ceremony.
"It was a little crazy, but we all liked it. We're lucky because this is something we normally wouldn't do in our navy," said Sakong.
For Hong, the crossing-the-line ceremony wasn't the only memory he'll bring back with him to Korea.
"One of the best moments on the ship was being able to swim in the Pacific Ocean during swim call," Hong said. "That will definitely be something I won't forget."
Before disembarking Blue Ridge, the midshipmen prepared a meal for the wardroom. Ensign Amy Kim, who helped prepare the meal, said she and her fellow officers thought it was a very kind gesture.
"It was great," Kim said. "It shows how eager they are in sharing a part of their heritage and the pride they have in their culture."
Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.