U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff pulled into Okinawa, Japan, May 24, making the ship’s first port visit in more than 70 days. While on liberty, Sailors will have limited access to specific designated areas on the pier and neighboring beach. This type of “Safe Haven” liberty allows for quality of life and readiness, while strictly mitigating the risk of contracting COVID-19. Ship’s personnel and 7th Fleet staff will not physically interact with anyone who is not part of the crew, including people from the base and local community.
Blue Ridge’s MWR committee has worked diligently to ensure that, Sailors will have access to areas of the base and have entertainment available while in Okinawa, all while inside the designated safe zone or “bubble.” Wi-Fi is being installed on the pier so that Sailors can use their phones and laptops. The beach will be open for Sailors to swim and lounge out on the beach, and sporting events like softball, soccer, kickball, volleyball, and basketball will be available at the facilities on base.
Sailors were also given the opportunity to order personal items from Kadena’s Exchange and have it delivered to the pier. All purchases will be delivered to a drop off station on the pier and fully disinfected by a qualified cleaning crew or be placed in large storage containers for an appropriate time that will ensure it is COVID-free. With the exception of a few mandatory personnel to ensure the ship’s safe arrival, there will be no interaction with any personnel outside the designated liberty areas.
The visit to Okinawa comes after Blue Ridge recently broke its record of consecutive days at sea, which had previously been 64, last set during the summer of 1972 during the Vietnam War. USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) is the oldest operational ship in the U.S. Navy, and as the 7th Fleet flagship ship, is responsible for fostering relationships within the Indo-Pacific region. She is currently forward-deployed to U.S. Navy Fleet Activities, Yokosuka in Japan, and is the third Navy ship named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, a range of mountains in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States.