YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff returned to Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka May 16, concluding a three-month patrol.
During the spring patrol, Blue Ridge visited 10 ports in eight different countries, strengthening and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through various theater security cooperation, staff talks and ship tours.
"We go to many ports, and we are a direct reflection of the United States in countries that don't have a lot of exposure to the U.S.," said Blue Ridge Commanding Officer Capt. Matt Paradise. "The crew's superior performance and behavior this underway has shown that they understood that."
The Blue Ridge team consists of more than 900 members, including embarked 7th Fleet staff, Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC) and the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12. During the port visits, Sailors engaged with the local community through 16 community service events and 12 Morale, Welfare and Recreation tours.
"This underway is something I will never forget," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Victor Molina. "Before the Navy, I had never even heard of some of these countries. Being able to travel to all of these places, meet the people and experience the cultures made this underway a once in a lifetime opportunity for me."
Blue Ridge participated in exercises at sea with the Sri Lankan navy and the People's Liberation Army (navy), conducting ship maneuvers and a Codes for Unexpected Encounters at Sea (CUES) exercise, enhancing the promotion of safe navigation and coordination between vessels.
"The exercises went very well," said Paradise. "While in Shanghai we sat and planned for the CUES exercise with the crew of the Chinese Lanzhou destroyer, Xi'an (DD 153) and since they escorted us out of port, we took those new relationships and lessons learned immediately to sea. The more we practice, the more we increase our cooperation; it's a win-win."
In addition to participating in TSC events, Sailors challenged their own ship's combat readiness through multiple inspections including a Damage Control Mobility Exercise Certification Validation, and a Combat Systems Certification Validation.
"Blue Ridge is constantly training and undergoing certifications," said Paradise. "We just completed the Combat Systems Certification Verification and passed every event with flying colors. [Afloat Training Group] was impressed with the effort, attitude and expertise of the crew."
The ship made port calls in Osaka, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Mumbai, Goa, Thailand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama, covering more than 13,000 nautical miles during its more than 80-day patrol.
Blue Ridge will now begin an Extended Dry-Docking Selected Restricted Availability (EDSRA) period, where it will undergo necessary changes and maintenance to increase its lifespan.
"Believe it or not, I am looking forward to this dry-docking period," continued Paradise. "Sailing on the open ocean and traveling from port to port has been great, but I'm equally excited for this EDSRA. It's a time for us to pay it forward, upgrade the ship and maintain her for the next generation."
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 36 years. As the flag ship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
For more news from USS Blue Ridge, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lcc19/.