By U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs
The U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff returned to Yokosuka May 29, after visiting 11 ports and strengthening partnerships in nine Indo-Pacific nations.
Blue Ridge departed Yokosuka Feb. 4, and covered more than 22,000 nautical miles as it made port calls in Otaru and Sasebo, Japan; Busan, South Korea; Manila, Philippines, Langkawi and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; Laem Chabang, Thailand, Hong Kong; Jakarta, Indonesia; Singapore; and the U.S. territory, Gaum.
While away from Yokosuka, the 7th Fleet Staff coordinated numerous exercises and operations throughout the Indo-Pacific. Most recently, Blue Ridge participated in the first of its kind exercise, Pacific Vanguard, which brought together U.S., Australia, Japan and Republic of Korea maritime forces to strengthen interoperability.
During each port visit, Blue Ridge provided a venue for professional exchanges with regional navies, conducting more than 30 senior leader engagements, staff talks in Thailand and the Philippines, and a maritime cooperative activity with the Philippine Navy.
"Blue Ridge provides a unique platform from which we conduct the important business of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific," said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. "We've made great progress on our priorities in this region thanks to the tireless effort and professional expertise of everyone on the flagship during its time at sea."
While at sea, Blue Ridge joined multi-national sanctions enforcement patrols, sailing in the East China Sea to monitor illicit ship-to-ship transfers.
As part of a regular series of exchanges and exercises with the Royal Malaysian Navy, Blue Ridge took part in the 2019 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, a biennial maritime and aerospace exhibition in Langkawi, Malaysia. Blue Ridge concluded the port visit by participating in a pass and review conducted by Malaysia's Prime Minister.
Seventh Fleet Band, held 36 live performances at local schools, development centers, malls and military engagements throughout the deployment for a total audience of 11,000.
"Our team's efforts to accomplish its mission have been amazing," said Capt. Eric Anduze, Blue Ridge commanding officer." Our engagements have been spot on, and this has been a wonderful experience for all of our Sailors to participate in a lifetime's worth achievements."
Outside of the operations, Blue Ridge managed to serve over 350,000 meals, handled over 15,000 lbs. of mail and give almost 1,800 haircuts to her crew.
Service members aboard Blue Ridge engaged with local communities, volunteering 10,000 hours of community service in 26 community outreach events at orphanages, elderly homes, civic centers and schools.
The Blue Ridge team consists of over 1,000 service-members, compiled of ships company, embarked 7th Fleet staff, Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC), Seventh Fleet Band and the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12.
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 40 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.