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NEWS | March 16, 2015

Blue Ridge Resumes Patrols to Engage Pacific Allies

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hendricks

YOKOSUKA, Japan - U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, March 14, to resume patrols in the 7th Fleet area of operations, strengthening and supporting strong relationships and partnerships throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, for 35 years, Blue Ridge provides advanced communications and command and control capabilities to 7th Fleet, enabling theater security cooperation and the coordination of fleet engagements within the Pacific.

“Everything we provide the 7th Fleet helps them accomplish their mission,” said Cmdr. Hezekiah Natta, Blue Ridge's communications officer. “Our capabilities range from satellite communication services, network systems and voice circuits allowing 7th Fleet to effectively accomplish their command and control operations. We have the most robust satellite communication system of any ship in the Navy, helping us to efficiently communicate with our allies.”

The flagship is manned by more than 900 personnel, including the embarked 7th Fleet staff, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 “Golden Falcons” and U.S. Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Pacific.

Blue Ridge recently completed sea trials, allowing the crew to verify and ensure the operational readiness of the ship after a selective restricted availability (SRA) maintenance period, undergoing repairs and the installation of new equipment.

“Major modifications such as the new Variable Speed Drive Control Lube Oil System were installed by Naval Surface Warfare Center,” said Lt. Seth Hall, Blue Ridge's main propulsion assistant. “These modern features allow us to steam using less energy.”

“There’s nothing better than taking the ship out to sea to exercise the crew and equipment,” said Blue Ridge Executive Officer Cmdr. Nathan Fugate. “Simulations and drills can only do so much, but the application helps prepare us to operate at sea. Because of sea trials and the drills conducted, we are more than capable to patrol the 7th Fleet area of operations and carry out our mission.”

Blue Ridge and embarked 7th Fleet staff will continue to solidify regional relationships through theater security cooperation engagements and through community service events.

“Building these relationships and ensuring our ability to protect the interests and concerns of not just our own but of our pacific partners allows us to maintain mobility in the 7th Fleet area of operations,” said Blue Ridge Chaplain Lt. Anthony Stallings. “If we were called upon to provide humanitarian and disaster relief, having these relationships will allow us to work together to solve the problem.”

“I am really excited about going to foreign ports, participating in community service events and supporting the big top celebrations,” said Ship’s Serviceman 3rd Class Ethan Fisher. “Sharing these experiences with other countries military-to-military in the past has always been an amazing experience, and I look forward to doing it again this year.”

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