Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Defender Visits Yakushima

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Richard Doolin, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

YAKUSHIMA, Japan (NNS) -- Mine Countermeasures ship USS Defender (MCM 2) arrived in Yakushima for a three-day port call, Oct. 18. It was the first visit by a Navy ship to this small island located 225 miles south of the Japanese mainland.

Yahushima's Yakasugi forest, a unique remnant of a warm-temperate ancient forest where no records of past tree cutting can be traced has been a World Heritage Site since 1993.

"Our visit to the beautiful Island of Yakushima gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the defense of Japan and our desire to maintain peace and stability throughout the region," said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick O'Mahoney, Defender's commanding officer.

During its visit Defender will hold a dinner reception for local leaders and government officials, and the ship will host public tours.

"When I show people our ship and what we do to make her work, it gives me great pride, and also gives me a chance to engage in a cultural exchange with those that might not have much interaction with U.S. Sailors," said Quartermaster 1st Class (SW) Richard Levangie.

Before Defender departs the Island, the crew will take part in a volunteer project to clean the local beaches that are internationally recognized as sea tortoise hatchery havens.

"Community service gives us a chance to give back, and makes me feel like a better person," said Mineman Seaman Apprentice Raymond Barrett.

Defender is currently deployed to the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.