YOKOSUKA, Japan - USS George
Washington (CVN 73) chief petty officers and their families went
underway for the day aboard the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)
helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181) during the ship’s Family Day
Cruise March 16.
Twenty-three chiefs and family members
from the U.S. Navy’s only full-time, forward-deployed nuclear
aircraft carrier boarded the 646-foot Japanese flagship at its
homeport in Yokosuka and enjoyed an extensive tour of the ship
including its bridge, flight deck, primary flight control, and
hangar bay, in addition to many other ship spaces.
After the families of the 360 Japanese
crew boarded, all hands enjoyed a three-hour underway through Tokyo
Bay from Yokosuka to Yokohama.
While underway, participants enjoyed an
aerial demonstration by one of Hyuga’s anti-submarine warfare
helicopters. Hyuga and George Washington have been sister ships
since Hyuga was commissioned in March 2009.
“It’s awesome,” said Arisa Helbick, daughter of George Washington’s
Chief Machinist’s Mate Ryan Helbick. “I get to see all the
equipment, views from the bridge and stuff. It’s different than the
George Washington, so it’s very interesting because I’ve never
actually been to both ships and, it’s like, cool.”
It may have been Arisa’s first time on both ships, but not so for
Hyuga’s Command Master Chief Motonari Suzuki and his family. Late
last year, they were invited to participate in George Washington’s
Family Day Cruise. It’s all a part of the ever-increasing
interchange between the navies’ senior enlisted leadership.
“We constantly work together to promote an exchange of ideas and
good camaraderie,” said George Washington’s Command Master Chief
Martin King. King has served many years in Japan spread out over
seven different commands.
“We’ve always had an extremely close relationship and it gets closer
every day,” said King. “Today’s event is just another great way to
show the friendship between our two navies.”
It’s a friendship that’s both professional and personal. Chief
Intelligence Specialist Andy Shropshire, the Bilateral Relations
Leading Chief Petty Officer at Commander, Naval Forces Japan, was
also one of the guests on the Hyuga’s Family Day Cruise but his
attendance had nothing to do with his title; his wife Shannon is a
Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist aboard George Washington and
Andy was her guest.
“This is just really cool,” said Andy
Shropshire. “While this is right up my alley in regards to my job,
the family is just having a ball experiencing this.” It’s a notion
his young son Ethan echoed.
“Awesome. I like it. It’s a good experience,” said Ethan. “I like
touching stuff so I loved touching the bridge, the wheel and stuff.
I liked turning the ship’s wheel.”
Whether it was seeing the Hyuga from an experienced Sailor’s
perspective or that of a family member, the experience highlighted
how the two countries shared ideals.
“You come to find out that their jobs are the same as what we do
every day. They have the same problems that we do. We exchange ideas
and see what works for us and pass it on,” said Navy Career
Counselor Master Chief Oscar Feaster.
Feaster has participated extensively in
these exchanges while stationed aboard George Washington, and as he
approaches his retirement after 30 years in the U.S. Navy in May, he
cherished what was likely his last underway of a long career. “We’re
a pretty close knit group here with the master chiefs, so it’s been
a lot of fun.”
“It’s a very, very important alliance,” said Hyuga’s Command Master
Chief Motonari Suzuki. “It’s very important to have the face-to-face
communication with other chiefs, so exchanges like these are
critical. They’re also very enjoyable.”
One of the U.S. chiefs group’s escorts, JMSDF Chief Koki Kumagi, has
been a part of the U.S.-Japan Sister Ship program for more than 20
years. He said through a translator that the U.S-Japan relationship
has strengthened over the years, and was shown to be especially
strong after last year’s earthquake.
“Over the years it’s become a much closer relationship where we
cooperate a lot more and we get to do more things like this,” said
George Washington Chief Machinist’s Mate Ryan Helbick. “The
experience makes me very proud to serve with them.”
While Japanese and American Sailors interact professionally
continuously due to operations and exercises, George Washington and
Hyuga chiefs have also enjoyed celebrating holidays with both
American and Japanese traditions such as mochi pounding,
presentation of Christmas trees and New Year’s kadomatsu, along with
touring each others’ ships in port and, now, underway.
Both King and Suzuki say activities
like these ensure a strong relationship, and they both are dedicated
to ensuring the exchanges continue.