HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (NNS) -- In a historic sign of normalizing relations between the United States and Vietnam, the guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) arrived in Saigon, the central district of Ho Chi Minh City, for a four-day port visit Nov. 19. This milestone event marked the first time a U.S. Navy ship has visited Vietnam since 1973.
During the visit, the ship is scheduled to host Vietnamese military and political leaders aboard for tours and an evening reception, while the crew will have the opportunity to visit a location that very few of their countrymen have seen in the last several decades. As the United States shares security concerns with Vietnam, such as in counter terrorism and regional stability, the port visit will serve as an excellent venue for increasing U.S. and Vietnamese interaction.
Vandegrift commanding officer, Cmdr. Richard Rogers of Moscow, Idaho, noted the Navy's historical importance in national diplomacy. "Navies have been for centuries well-suited for diplomatic missions, as they are highly mobile, flexible and a visible sign of national interest in a region. Sailors all share a great respect and admiration for the sea, thereby sharing a common bond," he added.
For the crew, the port visit will mark a truly unique opportunity to see a country most have only heard about through the media or entertainment industry. "One of the reasons for joining the Navy is to see the world. This port visit is a perfect example of why I enlisted," said Seaman Thomas Dorsett of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
During the port visit, the crew will participate in a volleyball tournament with the host nation navy, and also lend a hand at three different community relations projects, including painting an elementary school, digging a foundation for a new kindergarten school and donating toys, sewing machines and medical supplies to an orphanage through the Navy's Project Handclasp program.
U.S. ambassador Raymond F. Burghardt participated in a media availability on the ship with the ship's commanding officer before approximately 50 international and local press, including a live broadcast from CNN. Both noted that the visit marks an important step in improvement of bilateral relations between both governments.
"The visit is part of both countries' efforts to promote mutual understanding and is an element of increasing normalization of relations," Burghardt noted. "The U.S. and Vietnamese armed forces currently cooperate in several areas, such as removing [unexploded ordnance], medical treatment and exchange, and regional conferences on logistics and other subjects. The ship visit is another step forward in our military-to-military cooperation," he concluded.
Vandegrift is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, as part of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet.
For related news, visit the Commander 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/c7f.