Blue Ridge
160224-N-KG618-035 OSAKA, Japan (Feb. 24, 2016) Capt. Kyle P. Higgins, commanding officer of U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), answers questions during a media engagement following mooring in Osaka Harbor. Blue Ridge is conducting a regularly scheduled port visit during its patrol of the 7th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin A. Flinn/Released)
Blue Ridge Engages with Pacific Partner in Osaka

OSAKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) arrived in Osaka, Japan, Feb. 24, for a regularly scheduled port visit to further strengthen ties between the United States and Japan.

Blue Ridge Sailors plan to enjoy the local history and food while also being an asset to the community through a local community-service project.

"By helping the community, we are making a difference in the life of a child or an adult, which can have a lasting impact and change their life in a positive way," said Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Jewell, Blue Ridge's community-service coordinator. "This helps the Navy's overall mission in building and maintaining partner relationships."

The ship's planned community service project in Osaka will be at Holy Family Orphanage, where Blue Ridge and embarked 7th Fleet staff Sailors will be able to spend quality time with the children who reside there and assist with cleaning and organizing the facility.

Blue Ridge has a crew of more than 900 members, including embarked 7th Fleet staff, the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12, and Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific.

Blue Ridge's last visit to Osaka was after the ship provided command and control during Operation Tomodachi, where the U.S. and Japan demonstrated its strong partnership, provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, registering a magnitude of 9.0 that was quickly followed by a massive tsunami.

"The visit to Osaka will be a rewarding experience and will show the strength of the alliance between the U.S. Navy and Japan," said Capt. Kyle P. Higgins, Blue Ridge's commanding officer, "In all, [it will] affirm the bedrock of security in this region that has allowed millions of people to enjoy better, safer lives."

Osaka is Blue Ridge's first stop during its spring patrol within the Indo-Asia Pacific region and for some of the Sailors, it's their first port visit in the Navy.

"Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) is offering several trips to the Sailors while in Osaka," said Chief Ship's Servicemen Kevin Zita, Blue Ridge's MWR coordinator. "These trips give the Sailors positive and safe things to do during their port visit as well as letting them explore the region."

"We look forward to enjoying some time off in Osaka and in the Kansai region," said Higgins. "Seeing the sights, enjoying the local food and entertainment, and meeting new friends."

Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, for 36 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, Blue Ridge is committed to strengthening and fostering relationship within the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

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