LA MADDALENA, Italy (NNS) -- One of only two submarine tenders left in the Navy, USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) (ESL), returned to its homeport May 30 after a seven-day visit to the nation of Montenegro.
ESL is only the third U.S. Naval ship to visit Montenegro since the United States began diplomatic relations with the country in 2006.
During the visit the crew met with their Montenegrin Navy counterparts and participated in a series of community-related events with citizens of Tivat and other coastal municipalities. The crew conducted tours on board ESL, cleaned up a soccer stadium, visited an orphanage and local churches, participated in sporting events against local nationals, and hosted dignitaries such as Montenegrin Minister of Defense Boro Vucinic.
Speaking through an interpreter at an evening reception held on board ESL, Vucinic stressed the importance of building a solid relationship with the United States and other European allies. The visit by ESL was an important step in building such a friendship and the minister expressed his desire for Montenegro to have the opportunity to host other such vessels in the near future.
Land's Sailors also understood the importance of their visit to a newly independent nation and they expressed their enthusiasm for their role in such a historical event.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Monet Nixon. "These people have been through so much, they have a rich history, and they were very accepting of us here."
"We were not only representing the ship but our country," said Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Justin Russell after visiting a local orphanage. "We were ambassadors."
The friendly sentiment and enthusiasm towards Montenegro carried over into several sporting events.
"These are friendly games and we do have fun but we play to win," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Rafael Lara. "Even though we didn't do so well today, I would love to come back here and play again."
Montenegro is a Southeastern European country on the Adriatic coast, that once belonged to Yugoslavia. In June 2006, the country declared itself independent from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. ESL's port visit was part of a continued commitment to strengthen an emerging partnership between the United States and Montenegro.
For more news from USS Emory S. Land, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/as39/.