ZHANJIANG, China (NNS) -- USS Cowpens (CG 63) and USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) departed Zhanjiang, China, after a five-day port visit Sept. 26, completing the first U.S. Navy ship visit here to the People's Republic of China navy's South Sea Fleet (SSF) headquarters.
The historical port visit to China is just one of several exchanges that have taken place between the two countries over the past year, and is a continuation of a series of military-to-military exchanges between the two countries, which will include a visit by a SSF navy ship to Guam in October.
Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, commander, Carrier Group 5, Rear Adm. Richard Mauldin, U.S. defense attache officer in Beijing, along with the commanding officers of the two U.S. Navy ships, took part in multiple exchanges, including meetings with the commander of the SSF, Vice Adm. Wu Sheng Li; Rear Adm. Hou Yuexi, SSF chief of staff; and Zhanjiang deputy mayor, Chen Ya De.
The sailors of both countries offered one another reciprocal ship visits, receptions ashore and aboard the ships and other facility visits, and sightseeing tours of the local area.
"Every crew member was touched in some way by the warmth and heart-felt welcome we experienced while here in Zhanjiang," said Kelly.
In addition to official office calls, the U.S. Sailors were able to visit the destroyer Shenzhen and the frigate Yulin, while the Chinese Sailors were invited to tour the two visiting U.S. ships.
Three sporting events took place between the Chinese and U.S. Navy Sailors during the visit, including a tug-of-war match won by the combined team of the Cowpens and Vandegrift, and a basketball game won by the Chinese in a hard-fought competition and by a narrow 3-point margin. The Chinese sailors also won a soccer match by defeating the U.S. team 7-1.
Cowpens is a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser with a crew of approximately 400 Sailors and is commanded by Capt. Charles B. Dixon.
Vandegrift, commanded by Cmdr. Richard A. Rogers, is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate with a crew of approximately 210 Sailors.
The two ships are permanently forward-deployed to the Western Pacific and operate from Yokosuka, Japan.
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