Having previously spent little to no time with foreign militaries, this tour to Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet has been special for me due to all of the bilateral and multilateral military engagements. It has definitely been a very rewarding and enlightening experience.
Professional military exchanges during our various port visits throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific are of primary importance to the U.S. 7th Fleet staff, embarked on USS Blue Ridge.
In our recent stop in India I was invited to tour the Indian Navy ship Kochi, along with other Chief Petty Officers (CPO) from the Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet Staff. We had no idea what would come from this visit, because our interactions with India have been very minimal over the last decade. The reception we received by the Indian Chiefs was on par with what we would receive by an U.S. Navy Chief's mess.
Simply put… our engagement with the Indian Navy was awesome!
We were welcomed and given the tour of the ship by their Chief Petty Officers. It was great to see the similarities between our services. The quality of our interactions exceeded my expectations.
It’s striking how quickly we came together as a combined CPO Mess. I suppose being a Sailor is an identity of its own that transcends borders — we’re united by the oceans in which we operate.
They welcomed us with open arms and were very open to sharing their knowledge, insights, and experiences. They seemed extremely happy to have us aboard their ship.
Their ship was very new, was very neat and very organized, manned with many very experienced Sailors. The excitement of having the United States Navy onboard their ship was evident, and they stood proud to show it off!
We had such a blast conversing, joking around, taking selfies and exchanging hats and ship memorabilia that we wanted the day to continue, so we invited them to tour the Blue Ridge the next day and they accepted before we left the ship.
The next day we met their Chief's mess on the barge alongside our anchored ship — immediately there were numerous smiles. We were just as happy to have them. We were on the barge quite a few minutes exchanging memorabilia again and taking pictures, before proceeding with the tour.
The tour was slow going because the conversations kept flowing, which made it much more memorable for them and us.
They were intrigued with the fact that females work side by side males across all ranks. They explained that they have female officers in areas like nursing, aviation, administration.
They asked a lot of questions about our pay, allowances, medical, rank structure, uniforms and personnel issues — information we gladly shared. It was great to hear they had adapted a system so similar to ours.
We had them for lunch in our CPO mess where they happily enjoyed the vegetarian foods we had out for them. We had a few our female Chiefs sit with them at lunch to answer their questions — most of their questions were geared towards them incorporating enlisted females in their ship's force. They seemed to take away a lot during our lunch time discussion.
After lunch, it was back to the "liberty boats" to take them ashore. There were many pictures taken and many happy farewells! We are definitely looking forward to more interactions with their Navy.
Spending time with the Indian Navy’s Chief Mess really opened my eyes to how important our maritime partnership with India is and how much they appreciate the relationship between our navies. I look forward to seeing them again!