MANILA, Philippines?One-sixth or about 120 of the 650 sailors of the United State command ship in the Pacific is Filipino, said Captain Rudy Lupton, USS Blue Ridge commanding officer.
USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), which is the command ship of the US 7th Fleet with control over 45 ships and area of responsibility from Hawaii to India, arrived for a scheduled four-day goodwill tour here August 4 in order to ?strengthen ties between the two countries through shipboard tours, activities, and community service projects.?
Captain Rudy Lupton, commanding officer of the 636.5-foot long ship, said he believes that this visit to Manila will be a rewarding experience for his crew.
"Manila is an exciting port of call for the crew," Lupton said. "Our sailors are looking forward to relaxing, participating in community service projects, enjoying the local culture and experiencing all that Manila has to offer."
The visit is more special to those with friends and relatives still in the country.
One of them, Ship Serviceman Archie Burdeos, born and raised in Manila and from Cavite, said he might visit some kin during the visit.
?It?s a mix of feelings when I see my family because, like many other times I?ve seen them while in the Navy, it was unplanned but exciting,? said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Edgar Tandoy.
But even those without acquaintances here are excited to have a taste of what the Philippines means to them.
?This port visit is pretty exciting. I will get to do a little golfing, sightseeing, try the local food, and maybe even meet Manny Pacquiao,? said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Chris Silk.
One of Blue Ridge?s community relations projects in Manila will be a Habitat for Humanity project, where Blue Ridge and embarked 7th Fleet Staff Sailors will be able to help build a daycare and learning center.
?I am excited that I will be able to help others clean up the environment. If I am able to help others by making a learning environment possible, then that is the best feeling in the world,? said Ship Serviceman Seaman Quinton Lewis.
USS Blue Ridge, according to Petty Officer Fidel Hart, is unique because it has two crews aboard: the embarked 7th Fleet staff members and the ship?s company. The 7th Fleet staff directs the movements of ships and other units under its command. The USS Blue Ridge ship?s company is in charge of all operations, specific to USS Blue Ridge.
?It is the 7th Fleet?s office at sea,? Hart said.
With state-of-the-art commercial and military satellite capabilities, coupled with the ability to track land, sea, and air movements throughout the region, USS Blue Ridge is among the most technologically advanced ships in the world. The ship is also referred to as LCC-19, which means the 19th Amphibious Command and Control ship. It docks in Yokosuka, Japan.
Commander Lupton refused to reveal if his ship would participate in the war exercises between the US and South Korea following fresh tensions in the peninsula after the sinking of a South Korean ship. But he said the Koreas are part of its area of responsibility.