SASEBO, Japan – The amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) hosted a tour for National Defense Academy of Japan Midshipmen July 14, the first tour of a Sasebo-based ship by a non-U.S. military group since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March 2020, force health protection policies have impacted international exchanges between forward-deployed naval forces (FDNF) commands and their host nation of Japan. As current policy permitted, Green Bay hosted a tour for 19 Midshipmen and one instructor.
“We were honored to host these future Japanese maritime officers in a post-COVID ‘first’ for our ship, our squadron, and our Sasebo Navy,” said Capt. Tate Robinson, Green Bay’s commanding officer. “I am so glad we are able to do things like this again. Thanks to our crew’s efforts over the past year and more to stay healthy and sink COVID, we’re able to further bilateral relations with our host nation and trusted partner.”
Midshipmen at the National Defense Academy of Japan participate in summer cruises to gain underway experience and insight into their future careers. Midshipmen were unable to take part this summer due to COVID mitigations, and instead visited various Japan Maritime Self Defense Force districts throughout the country. The group that visited Sasebo had the fortune of touring Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo and Green Bay.
“This was rare for our class,” said Midshipman Kouki Kamimura. “Other midshipmen have never been on a U.S. vessel. They all go on the cruise, and this was much cooler than a cruise.”
This tour began with an introduction from Robinson, who also reflected on the impact summer cruises had when he was a Midshipman at the University of Memphis Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.
The two-hour ship tour highlighted the unique operational capability of the San Antonio-class transport dock ship, and the distinct commitment to supporting amphibious landing teams by showcasing the well deck, flight deck, medical ward, boat valley, pilot house (bridge), galley and berthing spaces.
The students learned of the ship’s namesake and its incorporation of memorabilia from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the Packers National Football League team throughout the ship. They were able to witness the Green Bay-specific “Hall of Heroes,” a main passageway that honors fallen Marines and Sailors from a 2017 MV-22 Osprey crash, and other fallen service members from the city of Green Bay.
Midshipman Koushiro Oota said he thinks a tour of a U.S. Navy vessel is “absolutely necessary” for Japanese Midshipmen. The stark differences in size, living spaces, and pilot house design sparked curiosity among himself and his peers, “making us want to research more about our [allied] partner,” he said.
Green Bay, part of Amphibious Squadron 11, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.