Thursday, August 13, 2009

GW Carrier Strike Group Arrives in Manila

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John J. Mike, USS George Washington Public Affairs

MANILA, Republic of the Philippines (NNS) -- The George Washington Carrier Strike Group, along with its more than 5,000 Sailors, arrived in the capital city of the Republic of the Philippines Aug. 11 for a scheduled port visit.

USS George Washington (CVN 73) is making its first visit to the Republic of the Philippines and is currently anchored in Manila Bay. This marks the first U.S. aircraft carrier in more than 13 years to make a port visit here.

GW, commanded by Capt. David A. Lausman, is the flagship of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan. The George Washington Carrier Strike Group includes embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62). The Cowpens and Fitzgerald are also anchored in Manila Bay.

More than 250 GW Strike Group Sailors plan to stay busy by spreading goodwill through a variety of scheduled community relations (COMREL) projects.

"COMREL activities help show our solidarity with our allies in the Republic of the Philippines and provide opportunities for our Sailors to return some of our blessings and share our cultural heritage with our neighbors," said GW's Command Chaplain Cmdr. Dennis Young.

Young said the Sailors will have a chance to participate in 12 different projects, which include the delivery of medical supplies, hospital visits, light construction work, painting, public health education as well as working in a number of schools.

"The U.S. and Philippines have enjoyed a long-standing relationship that has endured many years and historical events," said Young. "That spirit of partnership will be displayed in all of our COMRELs as our two countries work together and learn from each other to help local beneficiaries."

Rear Adm. Donegan will lead a group of GW Carrier Strike Group personnel during a wreath-laying ceremony Aug. 13 at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, in honor of servicemembers who died while serving in World War II.

"The significance of our visit is huge," added Cmdr. Anthony Calandra, GW's operations officer. "The operational and social interaction is an enormous opportunity to strengthen our alliance, and we hope GW visiting the Republic of the Philippines becomes a normal occurrence."

Calandra said GW's visit, being the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, can serve to further strengthen the working relationship between the two nations, who work together to maintain stability throughout the region.

"The U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines have a long history of cooperation, and we hope our visit helps to foster that relationship," Calandra said. "We are two independent nations working together which ultimately leads to greater peace and stability in the Pacific region."

GW is making its inaugural summer deployment from Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan in support of stability and security in the Western Pacific region. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier replaced USS Kitty Hawk last year as the Navy's forward-deployed carrier presence. The ship and crew departed Yokosuka June 10.