The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) pulled into Changi Naval Base for a scheduled port call following completion of Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2015.
"Peleliu and my crew are prepared for any operational tasking that we may be called upon to fulfill, as such, we are afforded the opportunity to take liberty in some of the most amazing locations in South-East Asia," said Capt. Paul C. Spedero, Peleliu's commanding officer. "I have tremendous pride in this crew. Peleliu is the Navy's finest ship, comprised of our country's finest Sailors and Marines and I look forward to the crew taking part in the unique liberty and cultural opportunities that Singapore has to offer."
The Navy's last Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship has spent the last four and a half months transiting the Pacific, participating in exercises in both the 3rd and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. In June and July, Peleliu acted as the commander of the Amphibious Task Force for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014 and in October, Peleliu was the flag ship for Expeditionary Strike Group 7, having embarked Rear Adm. Hugh Wetherald, Amphibious Squadron 11 and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). With those exercises complete, Singapore offers "Iron Nickel" Sailors and Marines a chance for liberty to experience the rich culture and history to help them refocus their energy before the final leg of Peleliu's final deployment. The ship will be taken out of active duty service and will enter the Ready Reserve Force early next year.
"One of the top reasons people join the military, and more specifically the Navy, is because they want to travel," said Lucas Eckstein, Peleliu's Morale, Welfare and Recreation(MWR) fun boss. "Giving Sailors the opportunity to get out and really experience the culture can do wonders for the crew's morale. What is nice about Singapore, though, is that Sailors can easily go out and find their own activities to do."
MWR is sponsoring six different tours during the port visit which include local cuisine, shopping and sightseeing, an aquarium trip and even having brunch with orangutans. For many Sailors, Singapore is a totally new experience.
"I've been in the Navy for about one year, so this is my first deployment and first time to Singapore," said Fireman Mitchell Moriarty, a Houston native. "I've heard it's a lot of fun, but it can get expensive. I know there's tons of stuff to do there."
Some of Peleliu's more senior Sailors have visited the Asian city-state before, including Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Patrick Drumm, a Philadelphia-suburb native.
"I've been to Singapore five times, three to five days each time, and always a liberty port," Drumm said. "I'm looking forward to all the younger Sailors on their first deployment enjoying a beautiful country that is so different from the U.S. I have been telling them to take pictures and go on tours."
Singapore offers Peleliu Sailors many different world cultures and cuisine.
"It really is multi-cultural, more than all our previous port calls," said Navy Career Counselor 1st Class Jon Randall, from Baltimore. "On one corner you will see a Buddhist temple, next to a Catholic church, across from a Hindu temple. The food is also really good, there's a Chinatown and Thai and even an American section, really anything you could want."
Peleliu's Chief Engineer, Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Loop offered his own, seasoned perspective.
"I have been to Singapore eight to ten times." Loop said. "The first time was in October of 1987. There is so much to do there; the shopping is endless, the cuisine is awesome. My favorite is the chili crab."
Peleliu is on its' final regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment in the US. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region before decommissioning early next year.