MANILA, Philippines (NNS) -- USS George Washington (GW) (CVN 73) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, with a combined crew of more than 5,000 Sailors, along with USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) arrived in Manila, Philippines, Sept. 4.
During the four-day port visit, George Washington plans to promote goodwill and professional exchange between the U.S. Navy and its host country through a series of shipboard engagements and community service projects.
"This is our ship's second port visit to Manila, and our crew is excited to be back in the Philippines," said George Washington's Commanding Officer Capt. David A. Lausman. "The United States and the Philippines enjoy a historic relationship, and we intend to build on this positive friendship during our time here."
"GW's port visit represents an important opportunity to promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, demonstrate commitment to regional partners and foster relationships," said Lausman.
To strengthen the bond the two nations share, GW's crew will participate in a series of military-to-military professional exchanges with their counterparts from the Republic of the Philippines navy. CVW 5 aviators, as well as GW Sailors from various departments, will lead tours of the ship and host a reception in the ship's hangar bay for distinguished military and government officials.
"The reception and tours provides an opportunity for our guest to see first hand what we do and demonstrates our good will to our partner nations in the Pacific," said Lt. Cmdr. Dennis Jensen, a GW operations officer. "These events put a face on the United States and serve as a show of diplomacy and commitment to the Philippines. I think the best way to showcase that commitment is to physically show them our appreciation for their partnership by coming here."
"The United States has a long standing relationship with the Philippines and the interaction that GW has with people from the Philippines is a demonstration of that bond," said Strike Fighter Squadron 102 "Diamondbacks" Command Master Chief Cheryl Cloud. "Functions GW will hold on board during our time in port are great ways to foster our partnership and give our host nation the chance to see the working and living environment of an U.S. Navy aircraft carrier."
GW Sailors plan to make the most of their time in Manila through nine different tours organized by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division. Tours range from golfing and shopping trips to scuba diving and a safari. Another tourist attraction Sailors are looking forward to is the Mall of Asia, the fourth largest shopping mall in the world.
"This is my second time coming to Philippines, and I am looking forward to going to the Mall of Asia again and do a little shopping and skating at the ice skating rink they have inside the mall," said Airman Cassandra Santiago from V-2 Division. "Manila is a beautiful city, and it gives me the opportunity to experience their culture."
Giving back to the local community, more than 200 Sailors from GW will participate in 11 community service (COMSERV) projects. The goal of these projects is to generate goodwill between U.S. Sailors and their Filipino hosts. Projects range from a visit to a local hospital to landscaping and working in a number of local schools.
At Clark Air Base in Angeles City, the GW Rugby Team will play in the Fat Boy 10's International Rugby Tournament. The annual rugby event is a charitable fundraiser benefiting housing and recreation projects for street children.
"These projects are a way to give back to the community and represent U.S. support to the Philippines through GW," said Lt. Benjamin Howard, a GW chaplain and one of the ship's COMSERV coordinators. "With the size of our volunteer group, we will be able to provide in three days more help than they would typically receive in a year. Our Sailors unselfishly volunteer their time, talent and skills in every port to lend a helping hand in communities throughout the Pacific, further strengthening GW's and the Navy's reputation."
For other GW Sailors, a port visit to Manila affords them the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, as many of GW Sailor's roots stem from Filipino heritage.
"I am glad that I get this opportunity to visit my family and friends," said Aviation Ordnance Airman Steven Hoffman, of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 "Royal Maces," who was born in Olongapo City, Philippines. "It has been six years since I was back in the Philippines so it will be nice to see how things have changed and to talk with my family about the things I have done in the U.S. Navy."
"Giving Sailors the opportunity to visit loved ones when we arrive at a port is always a good thing," said Chief Aviation Support Equipment Technician Carloroberto Toledo. "For our Sailors who are from the Philippines, it's the chance of a lifetime to visit not only family and friends, but their native country during a deployment."
GW is the flagship of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which is commanded by Rear Adm. Dan Cloyd. The GW CSG includes CVW 5, Destroyer Squadron 15 and the guided missile cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Cowpens (CG 63).
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.