Blue Ridge Kicks Off Pacific Partnership 2010 
KOROR, Palau (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) kicked off Pacific Partnership 2010 at the Ngarachemayong Community Center in Koror, Palau with an opening ceremony July 26.

"Pacific Partnership is a mission that I am particularly excited about, and proud to be a part of," said Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. John M. Bird. "Unlike most missions the Navy does which are military in nature, this mission works by, with and through host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and other U.S. government agencies to provide humanitarian and civic assistance. It is a chance for our men and women in uniform to give something back to the people of this region."

The Republic of Palau President Johnson Toribiong attended the opening ceremony and spoke about the special relationship Palau has with the U.S.

"Your visit today is outstanding. It will provide many forms of assistance through humanitarian projects and programs including medical care, clean-up, and painting of some of the schools here in Palau," Toribiong said. "We are most grateful for that expression of goodwill and friendship to our people."

At the end of the ceremony Capt. Rudy Lupton, commanding officer of Blue Ridge and Capt. Salvador Aguilera, chaplain of U.S. 7th Fleet, presented Project Handclasp materials, which are educational, humanitarian and goodwill goods, to Bilung Gloria Gibbons Salii.

Faustina Rehuher-Nargg, Minister of Community Country Affairs, who was also in attendance at the opening ceremony, said she was glad to see Pacific Partnership 2010 in Palau because humanitarian exercises help different cultures come together as one for a good cause.

"We need to understand each other. We need to understand each other's cultures. So if I understand you and you understand me then communication is for you open and we're not saying I'm better then you you're better then me, we're equal partners," Rehuher said.

During the five day visit Sailors and Marines from the Blue Ridge and Commander U.S. 7th Fleet will participate in several community service projects around the country. The renovation projects will take place at the following facilities: Ngchesar Elementary School, Melekeok Elementary School, Aimeliik Elementary School, Palau High School, Peleliu Elementary School, Angaur Elementary School and the Bloody Nose Ridge World War II Monument.

Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet medical and dental teams will also visit the Belau National Hospital in Koror, the Southern Community Health Center in Peleliu, and the Angaur Medical Clinic in Angaur, and provide free primary care and prescriptions.

Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet endeavors aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nations and partner nations. The visit marks the first time Pacific Partnership has come to Palau.
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