USS Ashland is First U.S. Navy Ship to Visit Reunion in 47 Years

Story Number: NNS080413-04Release Date: 4/13/2008 7:13:00 PM
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By Gillian Brigham, USS Ashland Public Affairs

PORT EST, Reunion (NNS) -- USS Ashland (LSD 48) wrapped up a two-day port visit to the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, Saturday, April 12.

Reunion is about 900 miles off the coast of mainland Africa, east of Madagascar. It was discovered, uninhabited, by European explorers in the 1500s. Ashland called on Reunion as part of U.S. Naval Forces Europe's Southeast Africa Task Group which is tasked with promoting maritime safety and security initiatives in the region. The last U.S. Navy ship to visit the island was USS Spiegel Grove in 1961.

While in Reunion, Southeast Africa Task Force commander Capt. Nicholas Holman and Ashland's commanding officer Cmdr. Jeff Ward visited the island's naval base and met with General de brigade Bruno de Bourdone de Saint Salvy, commander of all French forces in the Indian Ocean.

"We aren't going to wait another 47 years to return to Reunion," said Capt. Holman. "For the past couple years, the U.S. and French navies have been collaborating in the Gulf of Guinea. We're looking forward to increasing our interaction with them on the other side of Africa as we begin to work together to promote regional maritime awareness and help build the naval capabilities of our partners in Southeast Africa."

During the ship's two days in port Ashland Sailors squared off against French sailors during a soccer match while the U.S. Naval Forces Europe's brass quintet entertained local residents at a town fair. The ship also hosted nearly 200 local officials and French military personnel aboard for a shipboard reception.

This is the second deployment of CTF-363's Southeast Africa Task Force. In 2007, CTF-363-assigned assets USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) and USS Normandy (CG 60) visited eight Southeast African nations. For many of these countries, it was the first time a U.S. Navy ship had visited in more than 40 years.

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