USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Four ships and more than 5,000 Sailors of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 7 departed Japan, July 31 and August 1, after routine port visits marked by numerous displays of good will and community service throughout the country.
The strike group's flagship, the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 and the guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) left Sasebo, while the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) departed Yokosuka, and the guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101) departed Fukuoka.
While in Japan, more than 200 strike group Sailors volunteered to help make a difference in various Japanese communities by participating in eight community relations projects at local high schools and orphanages.
"Our ties with Japan go very deep," said Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup, the strike group's commander. "Our Sailors understand that it's about being good neighbors to our friends and representing the very best of America. We approached this port like we had a mission ashore, and we accomplished it."
One of the most popular projects involved the Ronald Reagan First Class Petty Officer Association, which hosted a pool party for a local orphanage.
"I think this party was a great opportunity for us to interact with Japanese kids and the community," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW/FMF) David Winter. "With the kids it's more personal. I think we all have a little bit of kid in us, and here in this environment I think it just meshes really well."
Working with the Japanese children was both rewarding and fun.
"I think we accomplished our goal of establishing relationships with the Japanese youth. We didn't want to leave, it was that fun," said USS Gridley Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SW) Marquis Hubbard.
"The people were so very friendly and very patient with our language barrier," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Christina Ross of Gridley. "By the end of the night I was speaking pretty decent Japanese."
Hundreds of Sailors took advantage of tours sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation, including sightseeing excursions, hiking trips and sporting events.
Lt. Cmdr. Walter Williamson, a nurse-anesthetist aboard Ronald Reagan, participated in the Kashima Shrine & Sake Factory tour. The shrine was built around 660 B.C.
"I had a great time on the tour. It was a good way to see the country and the culture," said Willimson. "The sake was good and cold and the shrine was beautiful."
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is currently in the U.S. 7th Fleet's area of responsibility as part of a routine deployment to promote peace, cooperation and stability in the region. Homeported in San Diego, Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
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