Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bonhomme Richard ESG Departs Australia

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jefferey Gabriel, Commander, Amphibious Force U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

PERTH, Australia (NNS) -- Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which includes USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47) completed a scheduled port visit to Fremantle and Perth on Oct. 21.

During the five-day visit, Sailors and Marines were involved in friendship-building activities, met local citizens, experienced local customs and traditions, and enjoyed recreational activities offered in Perth.

“This was a great opportunity for our Sailors and Marines to enjoy the rewards of a long and successful deployment,” said Capt. Neil Parrott, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard. “Australia is a favorite place for us to visit. The crew always enjoys opportunities to visit cities such as Perth and Fremantle. This port visit offered our Sailors and Marines the opportunity to experience the culture of this wonderful city.”

Sailors and Marines participated in various Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and community relations events, allowing the Sailors and Marines a chance to journey through shopping malls and mingle with locals.

“I feel that the Australian locals were very pleased with our visit to Perth,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Horace Reid. “Going the extra mile is an understatement in this case. You could see it in their smiles that they wanted to make an everlasting impression on us as tourists.”

Sailors and Marines met with members of local civic organizations, including the Western Australian Tourism Commission, Fremantle’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Australian-American Association, at a welcoming reception at a local restaurant in Fremantle.

“We got the warmest welcome from the Australians,” said Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class (AW/SW) Christopher Ollinger. “While being served food and drinks, we also entertained each other with questions about our lifestyles. The hospitality was second to none.”

MWR events also opened the door to the region’s culture. According to Chief Yeoman Lovie Rush, the MWR-sponsored Sun Valley Wine, Cheese and Chocolate tour was a good way to learn about Australia’s oldest wine growing region.

“I’m not a wine drinker, but I still attended this tour and ended up having the time of my life,” said Rush. “We visited five wineries and with each wine, we got a sample to go along with the synopsis of them. We also got to sample a variety of chocolates and enjoy[ed] a gourmet platter lunch.”

According to Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Timothy Long, the koalas, kangaroos and sharks tour gave everyone a chance to experience a pleasant side of wildlife.

“Once you see a shark in person, you will immediately notice that they are larger than the television makes them out to be,” said Long. “I also got a chance to feed and touch koalas. Still, my highlight of the tour was when I saw what I think is the fastest kangaroo in the world.”

Sailors and Marines also volunteered time to show their appreciation to their hosts through a variety of community outreach projects benefiting the local community and environment, including assisting the elders at the Perth Hebrew Congregation; planting trees and shrubs to regenerate wetlands with the Conservation Volunteers Australia, Bushland Project; gardening and painting for Valued Independent People, Inc.; and visiting children at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

“I really enjoyed myself,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class Corey Willis, who volunteered to help at WEST Australian, Care, Accommodation, Rehabilitation, and Employment, an organization that helps disabled individuals to be independent. “This is a very constructive and rewarding way to spend your day.”