By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Don Patton, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs
SYDNEY (NNS) -- The U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) arrived in Sydney for a port visit further strengthening the relationship between the partner nations July 3.
While in Sydney, embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff will conduct the U.S.-Australian biennial military exercise Talisman Sabre 2015, July 4-19. Blue Ridge will act as command and control for the exercise and provide communications support for U.S. 7th Fleet and Australian Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC) staffs.
The Blue Ridge team consists of more than 900 crew members, including embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff and the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12.
During the visit, many service members will volunteer their off duty time, participating in community service events at two separate children's hospitals and one retirement home.
"Community service projects provide Sailors an opportunity to affect lives and leave a lasting impression on the nations they interact with," said Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Brian Jewell, Blue Ridge's community service coordinator. "These events are important because they also give each nation a chance to view each other differently."
Blue Ridge's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office scheduled inter-navy basketball, volleyball and soccer games between Blue Ridge Sailors and Sailors from the Royal Australian Navy.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for us to engage in friendly competitions and to interact with Sailors from other countries," said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Christopher Dugas, Blue Ridge's MWR sports coordinator.
"A lot of times when we pull into ports the Blue Ridge sports teams are looking forward to playing the home country's team," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Jennifer Thai, a Blue Ridge MWR representative. "Events like these encourage camaraderie between our service members."
MWR also provides Sailors an opportunity to explore Sydney and learn about the culture and history through tours, such as to the Sydney Opera House or the panoramic city tour taking Sailors to the Rock, the oldest village in Sydney.
"These tours give Sailors a chance to get away and see the different scenic sites that Sydney has to offer," said Thai. "It is very important to provide opportunities that they might not have taken advantage of on their own."
This port visit marks the first time Blue Ridge has been to Australia since its involvement in Talisman Sabre 2013, which took place in Cairns, Australia.
Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 36 years and is currently on patrol, strengthening and fostering relationships within the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.