CAIRNS, Australia - U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed Cairns after an eight-day port visit Aug. 5.
During the port visit, Blue Ridge crew members and 7th Fleet staff participated in sporting events with the Australian community, provided ship tours, explored Cairns city life and experienced Australia's natural beauty firsthand.
Yeoman 1st Class Yonet Garciacabrera took advantage of a Great Barrier Reef diving trip.
It's one thing to say you've been to Australia, but it's another thing to say you've swam with sharks at the Great Barrier Reef," said Garciacabrera. "The experience was unreal."
Sailors also participated in a 5k Color Fun Run along the Cairns waterfront.
"I felt like this positive experience made our bond stronger with the Cairns community," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Eric Mayes. "The whole 5k Color Fun Run was outstanding."
The Admirals, Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet basketball team, were invited to play with the Marlins, a semi-pro Australian basketball team. Although the Admirals lost to the Marlins, the experience is what mattered to Ship's Serviceman 2nd Class Quinton Lewis.
"This was my first time playing against a semi-pro basketball team," said Lewis. "The team was compromised of 16 to 20-year olds and they were surprisingly talented. We lost to them, but it wasn't about winning or losing. What mattered was establishing a sense of community between the U.S. and Australia."
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship, Blue Ridge is vital in forging partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.