CAIRNS, Australia – Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) pulled into Cairns, Australia for a routine port visit, July 28.
The visit to Cairns comes after Ashland’s crew and the embarked Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit completed exercise Talisman Saber 2017. Talisman Saber is a biennial combined Australian and United States training exercise, designed to train Australian and U.S. military forces in planning and conducting operations to improve combat readiness and interoperability.
The port visit will be a break from the ship’s underway operations where Sailors and Marines can explore city of Cairns and have the opportunity to volunteer in command-coordinated projects with local organizations.
"Community Relations (COMREL) projects provide an important interface between the U.S. military and Australian civilians,” said Lt. Merlin E. Stephan, command chaplain. “These types of large-scale interactions are difficult to perform by other means.”
Twenty-seven Sailors and 22 Marines will participate in four COMREL projects during the visit. The time and support Ashland’s crew provides is a way of showing the Navy and Marine Corps’ commitment to Australia.
“COMRELS provide reassurance to the citizens of Australia that America is a great nation to partner with for both national defense and humanitarian crisis,” said Stephan.
After the port visit in Cairns, Ashland will be conducting amphibious integration training (AIT) and certification exercises (CERTEX) with the 31st MEU.
The purpose of AIT and CERTEX is to provide a comprehensive, complex training environment that combines the Navy and Marine Corps maritime and sea-to-shore capabilities.
Ashland, part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and forward deployed out of Sasebo, Japan, is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response force for any type of contingency.