Monday, November 24, 2008

Essex Arrives in Hong Kong

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson

HONG KONG (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived in Hong Kong Nov. 22 for a scheduled port visit.

Throughout the port visit, Essex Sailors will have an opportunity to experience one the world's largest and most culturally diverse cities.

"We're really looking forward to visiting Hong Kong -- one of the best liberty ports in the world. With tours, shopping and cultural events, Sailors never run out of things to see and do" said Capt. Brent Canady, Essex' commanding officer. "Essex Sailors are always anxious to visit this historically rich and internationally unique city. This is a favorite liberty port for Sailors."

The visit comes at the conclusion of a tough, 11-day stretch, during which Essex Sailors participated in ANNUALEX 20G, a bilateral exercise conducted annually with Japan, and a Unit Level Training Assessment-Certification (ULTRA-C).

"Our Sailors have really put forth a remarkable effort throughout the past two weeks," said Essex Command Master Chief David Bentley. "This port visit should be a well-deserved opportunity to relax."

For many Essex Sailors, such as Damage Controlman Fireman Kevin Martinez, of Bronx, N.Y., this will be their first trip to Hong Kong.

"I'm pretty excited about experiencing the culture," said Martinez. "I've also heard that shopping in Hong Kong is awesome. I'm hoping to check out some sneakers and other things that you can't find back in the States."

The port visit will also serve as an opportunity for many Essex Sailors to return to one of their favorite liberty ports.

"I was in Hong Kong last year, and I'm definitely looking forward to going back," said Seaman Dannielle Walls, of San Diego. "There are so many things you can find in Hong Kong that you just can't get anywhere else. I can't wait to relax and do a lot of shopping."

Essex Sailors will also have an opportunity to experience Hong Kong's rich culture through a variety of tours sponsored by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department. MWR will offer 20 tours in all, featuring everything from metropolitan shopping sprees to countryside excursions to mainland China.

No matter what kind of experience they're looking for, Essex Sailors can probably find it in Hong Kong, said Martinez.

"I think Hong Kong will turn out to be a really unique place," he said. "If you like the city, it doesn't get much better than this, but if you're looking to get away from that, and check out some of the landscape and ancient architecture, you can definitely do that too."

Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group and serves as the flagship for Commander Task Force 76, the Navy's forward-deployed amphibious force commander. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.