PORT KLANG, Malaysia (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's full-time forward-deployed aircraft carrier and its crew of more than 5,000 Sailors arrived in Malaysia for a routine, five-day port visit, Oct. 7.
This marks the first visit to Malaysia for USS George Washington (CVN 73) since relieving the now decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) in 2008.
"[The U.S. Navy] always enjoy visiting Malaysia and especially Port Klang and Kuala Lumpur. Aside from an opportunity to work with regional partners, our Sailors enjoy exploring this area greatly," said Rear Adm. J.R. Haley, commander, Task Force Seven Zero. "We are fortunate to have been able to work with the Malaysian navy in multiple venues to promote stability in the region over the last several months and have more work planned after this visit."
The port visit will be kicked-off with a welcome reception aboard George Washington for more than 500 Malaysian dignitaries and distinguished visitors, and U.S. embassy and military personnel.
"We always look forward to opening our doors to our host nation," said Capt. G.J. Fenton, George Washington's commanding officer. "This welcome reception provides an opportunity for our Sailors to intermix and develop relationships with Malaysian and U.S. embassy dignitaries in a relaxed atmosphere."
The ship's Command Religious Ministries Department has coordinated six community service (COMSERV) projects, including volunteer opportunities at School for Myanmar Refugee Children, Juara-Glad Tidings Home for Children and other children's homes in the area.
"When our Sailors are out there volunteering their time, they're representing our ship, the U.S. Navy, and the United States and everything it stands for," said Cmdr. Daniel Mode, George Washington's command chaplain. "These opportunities not only benefit those we're helping; volunteering to help children in need or the elderly also has a significant impact on our Sailors, and we walk away better people."
George Washington is scheduled to conduct 11 ship tours for Malaysian business and civic leaders, and military officials. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier will also host a safety and medical exchange with the Malaysian military.
"As a coalition partner and one of the more advanced medical systems in southeast Asia, chances are that we will operate together at some point, and this [medical] exchange will provide us both insights into how we can best operate together in the event of a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief mission," said Capt. Russell Hays, George Washington's senior medical officer.
The ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division has set up 10 cultural tours that will allow Sailors to take affordable excursions throughout Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding area for some well-deserved rest and to better understand the Malaysian culture.
"[MWR] tours are always popular in every country that we visit; we currently have sold more than 1,600 tours for Malaysia," said Operations Specialist Seaman Michael Stephens, from Newark, N.J. "I am personally going on the Sunway Theme Park tour, which seems to be the most popular among the crew. I'm excited to get some time off and to see what Malaysia has to offer."
Sailors will also have the opportunity to socialize with American families in the area through the Kuala Lumpur American Sailor Socials (KLASS), which is a program that has been developed for American families living in Kuala Lumpur to show appreciation to fellow American servicemen and women who are serving on ships and protecting all that we hold dear.
"The basic principle of the program is for American families living in Kuala Lumpur to host Sailors whenever a U.S. Navy ship is in port here," said Command Master Chief Shaun Brahmsteadt, George Washington's command master chief. "Hosting can mean many different things, including home-cooked meals in a house or apartment, dinner or cocktails at a favorite restaurant, or an afternoon of sightseeing, shopping or at the movies."
The U.S. Navy works with Malaysia to conduct key military exercises to improve the capabilities of both Armed Forces, such as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), a traditionally Navy-focused exercise that is moving toward joint operations. The most recent Malaysia CARAT was conducted June 14-21, 2012.
"We are honored to be partners with the professionals of the Royal Malaysian Navy and believe that our strong relationship contributes to peace, security and stability in the region," said Fenton. "U.S. Navy ships and personnel learn a considerable amount about southeast Asia and tropical operations from our Malaysian counterparts."
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.