The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Pioneer (MCM 9) arrived in Uki, Japan, for a port visit, October 18. The Pioneer crew received a welcoming ceremony presented by local kindergarteners giving a musical performance on “wadaiko,” a type of traditional Japanese drums. The Uki City mayor, Kenshi Morita, was also there to welcome all the sailors to his city.
The captain and sailors gave a ship tour to the media and the mayor to showcase the capabilities of their ship and the strategic advantages of having an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship forward deployed to Japan. USS Pioneer’s visit to Uki City marks the first US Navy ship to ever visit the city. This goodwill port visit is part of the Navy’s effort in strengthening the United States of America’s relationship with Japan.
“This is going to be a unique experience for the crew to visit a Japanese city that has not had much interaction with the Navy like in Sasebo,” said Lt. Cmdr. Robert Wayland, commanding officer of Pioneer. “There should be some great opportunities to meet and interact with new people and experience new food. My crew will also be able to give back to the community during a beach day clean up.”
USS Pioneer will receive many visitors including the Kumamoto Japan-America Society, an organization that promotes friendly relations, mutual understanding and interchange between Kumamoto and the United States of America. Many of the sailors will also get the opportunity to see a country music festival, featuring both American and Japanese musicians.
“I have seen a lot of Japan and it will be great to go to a new city to experience any unique differences,” said Lt.j.g. Scott Sansing, the Main Propulsion Officer of Pioneer and a fluent Japanese speaker. “This is another opportunity to speak with people in that city and maybe even make new friends.” Pioneer is part of Commander, Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7 and is forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan. They are operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of regional peace and stability.