By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Troy Milburn, USS Exxex Public Affairs
MANADO, Indonesia (NNS) -- The Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) departed Manado, Indonesia, after a four-day port visit, June 9.
During the visit, Sailors and Marines were welcomed to a variety of activities through Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tours, including whitewater rafting, scuba diving, dancing and playing games with children at a local orphanage and exploring the city's shops, restaurants and scenery.
"The port visit in Manado certainly assisted in strengthening the connection and communication between the United States and Indonesian navies and people," said Cmdr. Thomas Stephens, Rushmore's commanding officer. "Manado allowed us to view another country's way of life through the lens of being Americans."
"It was cool coming to a port like this knowing it's been three years since one of our ships visited here," said Cryptologic Technician Technical 2nd Class Ivan Pedraza. "With how much this place has probably changed during that much time, our experiences might have been totally different from those who were here previously."
The excitement of the crew arriving to their first port call was rivaled only by that of the welcome they received from the people of Manado.
"Everywhere we went, it was all smiles, 'hellos , thumbs up, and I love you'," said Cpl. Stephen Hill of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division. "I think we all had people ask to get their picture taken with us probably a thousand times. It kind of felt like we were rock stars."
Rushmore is currently on a regularly-scheduled deployment with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which consists of Rushmore, USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The Essex ARG/MEU is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.