By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Waldrop
BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff departed Busan, Republic of Korea Aug. 30 after conducting joint exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2014 (UFG 14) with the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy during a 17-day port visit.
The exercise enhances combat readiness and interoperability by utilizing cooperative training and engagement between ROK and U.S. forces in the region.
"UFG 14 was the first use of a combined ROK-U.S. Naval Component Commander (NCC) staff," said Capt. Chris Budde, UFG 14 Combined Maritime Operations Center (CMOC) director. "The CMOC concept exceeded all expectations by significantly improving the effectiveness of the navy component in the fight and further cemented the ROK-U.S. alliance."
During the visit, Sailors enjoyed cultural tours sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation, participated in community service engagements with locals and competed in friendly sports matches with the ROK navy.
Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet Chief Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officer Selectees visited the Chun-Ma Rehabilitation Center, a home for mentally disabled people of all ages.
"Visiting the people at the Chun-Ma home was an amazing and humbling experience," said Chief Hospital Corpsman (Select) Cameron Poteat. "I'm glad that we were able to teach them a little about what we do and have a positive impact on their lives."
Blue Ridge welcomed aboard members of the ROK Navy to take guided tours of the ship, and in turn, Blue Ridge Sailors were given tours of the Korean guided missile destroyer, Sejong the Great (DDG-993), the ROK flagship.
"It was a great opportunity to meet with one of our regional partners and to get a tour of one of their destroyers," said Ensign Thomas Blevins the Combat Information Center Officer. "It was a unique experience to visit and talk with Korean sailors, see how they operated, and how they maintained their bridge."
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.