By Francis Wakefield
ON BOARD USS BLUE RIDGE – The United States 7th Fleet USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) and embarked 7th Fleet arrived in Manila on Wednesday, March 13, for the ship’s first port visit to the Philippines in three years.
The Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet team undertook a cooperative deployment with Philippine Navy (PN) frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) shortly before arriving in Manila to reaffirm longstanding ties with its PN counterparts.
In a statement, Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, said the port visit offers opportunities to reconnect after a few years away and staff talks aboard Blue Ridge will provide a venue for professional exchanges with PN counterparts.
The crew will continue the tradition of community service events and cultural exchanges ashore, including multiple 7th Fleet band engagements and community relations service.
“Our nations are longstanding allies and our navies have worked together for generations,” Sawyer said.
“Our visit to Manila strengthens the bonds between our navies and our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Blue Ridge commanding officer, Captain Eric Anduze, will meet with PN officials and distinguished visitors for a tour of the flagship to explain the ship’s mission and goals.
“We are very proud to be back in Manila after a long absence, Anduze said.
“The Philippines has been an ally of our country for many years, and being able to show our appreciation for that friendship is something we always look forward to continuing to foster and maintain our deep relationships here are paramount to what we do in 7th Fleet,” he added.
During the visit, 7th Fleet and Blue Ridge Sailors will spend time playing a friendly basketball game with a local college, and reading to children in local neighborhoods around Manila.
Chief Religious Program Specialist Ana Douglas is leading these events for more than 30 Sailors from the 7th Fleet-Blue Ridge team.
Meanwhile, many Filipino-American Sailors will also have a chance to reconnect with their heritage during the port visit.
According to Anduze, there are about 130 sailors who have links with the Philippines.
One such Sailor, Seaman Charmaine Dalusung, will see the country she was born in for the first time since she was a child.
“I am very excited to come back to my first home,” Dalusung said.
“It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the friends and family I grew up with, so I’m extremely grateful to the Navy for giving me the opportunity to reconnect with my roots and culture,” she added.
“Blue Ridge recently completed a nearly two-year extended dry-dock selected restricted availability period and numerous certifications, to ensure she remains ready to provide security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Blue Ridge is commanded by Captain Anduze and serves under Commander. Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force.