USS Gary Makes Historic Ship Visit to CambodiaSihanoukville February 9-13, 2007
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Royal Cambodian sailors lined up in formation and many other Cambodians excitedly looked on as the USS Gary arrived in Sihanoukville on Friday, February 9th, making it the first visit by a U.S. Navy ship to the Kingdom of Cambodia in more than 30 years. "It’s certainly a special honor to be chosen to be that ship because the crew consists of, in my opinion, some of the most upstanding sailors in the Navy, who all really take it to heart when they are asked to be good ambassadors for their nation," said USS Gary's Commanding Officer, Joseph Deleon.
U.S. Navy ships routinely make port calls in a variety of locations as a means to interact with the people of other countries and to promote regional cooperation. As U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph A. Mussomeli stated on the ship's arrival, "The USS Gary’s visit to Cambodia shows not only an expansion, but a deepening, of the U.S.-Cambodia bilateral relationship. While this is clearly a military ship and has a military purpose, it also has a humanitarian purpose and a diplomatic purpose."
During the five-day port visit, USS Gary sailors interacted with the people of Cambodia through a number of activities. A major outreach event was a medical civic action program (MEDCAP) to provide primary health and dental care to local villagers. This project involved a small team of U.S. Navy medical personnel working side by side with a medical doctor and three assistants from the Royal Cambodian Navy. The Andong Thmor Health Center in the village of Khum Prey Nup hosted the two-day MEDCAP.
On the first day, public health education classes were taught by Latter Day Saints-sponsored puppeteers while the medical team conducted a health needs assessment of prospective patients. Drs. Josh Arthur, Mike Mooney, Fritz Craft and Lt. Commander Pki Yadeth provided the health and dental care to the neediest of the local people. Other U.S. Navy sailors also pitched in to support the local community by volunteering to clean, paint, and repair the clinic.
In Sihanoukville, U.S. sailors also spent the day at the Village D’enfant de Sihanoukville orphanage conducting games and activities for the children and delivering toys, clothes and supplies, including 300 yards of fabric, 3 mobile cribs, skateboards, soccer balls and more. Displaying more of a competitive nature, sailors from both the U.S. and Cambodian navies squared off in soccer and volleyball games at Ream Naval Base.
Crewmembers of the USS Gary also conducted a damage control demonstration for 30 Royal Cambodian Navy personnel. The ship displayed a wide range of damage control equipment on the helicopter flight deck and briefed the Cambodian sailors on their purpose and method of use. The crew then went on to simulate a fire in the port hangar bay and showed their guests a typical emergency response. Some of the Cambodian sailors also put on the ship’s Firefighting Ensembles and tested damage control equipment to get a more hands-on learning experience.
The USS Gary is a frigate and is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 operating out of Yokosuka, Japan as part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet and the Navy’s Forward Deployed Naval Forces. Operating in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, the U.S. Seventh Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. Fleets, with approximately 50 ships, 120 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any given time.