By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary DiPadova, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs
The crew of Bonhomme Richard hosted more than 3,700 residents of Okinawa on board for ship tours as part of the White Beach Festival. The event was jointly hosted by Commander, Fleet Activities Okinawa (CFAO) and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, Sub-Area Activity Okinawa (SAAO) to reciprocate the hospitality that the community of Okinawa has shown U.S. forces stationed on the island.
To show appreciation for the continual support that the Okinawa community has provided the Sailors of Bonhomme Richard over the years, the crew welcomed visitors onto the ship, provided demonstrations, and guided them throughout key operating areas, including the flight deck, well deck, hangar bay and medical triage.
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Trent Woolsey, from Arlington, Texas, presented a variety of damage control equipment to tour participants during the ship tours.
“A lot of people were really engaged in what we were presenting and the equipment we were showing them,” said Woolsey. “I had a lot of fun, and I’m very grateful to how respectful and curious the Okinawa people were about what we were presenting to them.”
In addition to White Beach Festival, Bonhomme Richard took part in a number of community relations (COMREL) events which allowed for positive cultural exchanges between service members and citizens of Okinawa. Volunteering groups included Bonhomme Richard’s First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA), Junior Sailor Association (JSA), and the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD).
The FCPOA interacted with Okinawa youth through board and card games at a children’s development center; CSADD sat down with Okinawa locals at a restaurant, shared language lessons, and discussed their backgrounds and experiences; and JSA made a trip to the Nago International Center to interact with youth through games, snacks and an evening of laughs.
“Community relations events are a great way to give back to the community, as well as give Sailors an opportunity to do something meaningful in their off time,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Gordon, from Youngstown, Ohio, executive assistant of JSA. “My favorite part of being in JSA is knowing that the community has a better outlook on us after we leave.”
While serving forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan since 2012, Bonhomme Richard has frequently stopped at White Beach, Okinawa to on-load and off-load Marines, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 3rd Marine Division, and the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
As Bonhomme Richard prepares to sail to San Diego for a homeport shift, the ship maintains operations in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a regularly scheduled patrol and provides a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster.
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