By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin A. Flinn, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) Public Affairs
SINGAPORE (NNS) -- The U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed the Republic of Singapore, May 8, after strengthening multilateral partnerships through community service, military-to-military engagements and cultural exchanges.
During the eight-day port visit, Blue Ridge Sailors, U.S. 7th Fleet staff members, the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 and Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC) volunteered at four community service (COMSERV) projects, held visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) demonstrations and participated in Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tours.
Sailors helped prepare, cook and distribute more than 3,500 meals to children, adults and elderly at the Willing Hearts charity organization.
"In the moment, I'm sweating," said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Michael Fanton. "My arms are getting tired from stirring and scooping large amounts of food. But, personally, it felt good because by the end, I walked away realizing I made a difference in some way. Even if it had been minimal to someone else, it was big to me."
Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Brian Jewell, Blue Ridge's community service coordinator, said that Sailors had a positive impact on Singaporean citizens while also volunteering at three other events. Sailors interacted and played sports with students at International Community School (Singapore) and disabled citizens at Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore. Additionally, a swimming event for special needs students took place at the Genesis School.
"A lot of Sailors have told me how much they loved interacting at all of these COMSERVs," said Jewell. "Sometimes the events can be very structured. However, these were less so, but in a good way. We were able to talk and interact more."
Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC) not only demonstrated various VBSS processes to provide insight and training, but were also able to engage in casual conversations with members of the Singapore Armed Forces.
"At some point, we took a break from training," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Palmer, a FASTPAC platoon leader. "They had questions about what our jobs are like and we asked what their jobs are like. It was more informal, but everybody was able to gain new perspective on their counterpart's day-to-day."
The ship's MWR offered a variety of tours from shark diving, night and river safaris and a trip to Universal Studios Singapore, to a food trail in Singapore's Little India.
"The tour at Universal was really great," said Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Mbalu Fornah. "I even reenlisted there. All my friends from the ship came out to see me and enjoy the park. It was very special for me."
Blue Ridge conducted a port visit in Singapore to build multilateral partnerships, volunteer through community service projects and explore everything Singapore has to offer, and strengthening relationships with the people.