Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESXARG) ships USS Essex
(LHD 2) and USS Juneau (LPD 10) arrived in Busan and USS Tortuga (LSD 46) pulled into Chinhae on April 4 for scheduled port visits following the conclusion of Foal Eagle (FE) 2007.
Sailors of the ESXARG and embarked Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will have the opportunity to tour the Republic of Korea (ROK) and to participate in a community service project along with a variety of joint activities with the Essex's sister ship, the ROK Navy’s Yang Man Chun.
“The Sailors and Marines of the ARG-MEU team have worked extremely hard in completing the mission of FE,” said Capt. Anthony J. Pachuta, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 commodore and ESXARG task group commander. “So rightly, they deserve this time to enjoy themselves and enjoy the best that Busan and Chinhae have to offer.”
Busan is a multicultural metropolis and is the second largest city next to Seoul with a population of 3.65 million. Interwoven within the city are Buddhist temples and attractions on its outer rim, and an assortment of international shopping and dining options in its center.
Highlights on one of the cultural tours for Busan include Bulguska Temple, Tumulus Park and the national museum. Sailors and Marines will also have an opportunity to venture to Seoul and Osan through Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) provided tours.
Similar opportunities will be available in Chinhae, home to both ROK and U.S. Navy units, both in exploration and interaction. One major highlight during Tortuga’s stop there is participation with locals for the area’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
“I look forward to experiencing the culture and taking advantage of the international market here,” said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Robert A. Quanbeck, of Essex who will be seeing the Republic of Korea for the first time. “I think there is excitement there, just in being able to see what it’s really all about.”
Many of the Marines have been in country for almost a month for pre-deployment training and then Foal Eagle.
Though they have experienced the Republic of Korea, its people and ROK Marines through a military lens, the 31st MEU Marines are looking forward to taking in the cultural aspects of it as well.
“I hope to get a better understanding of the people and the culture while I’m here,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher S. Cluck, with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
Cluck was able to visit countries such as Egypt, Australia and Singapore when he was on a similar deployment with the 13th MEU, but this is his first time here. It is an opportunity to see a different side of the world; for which, he said, he is grateful.
The opportunity for an enriching experience is what the 31st MEU commanding officer, Marine Col. John L. Mayer, is encouraging all Marines and Sailors to take advantage of during the port visit.
“We have made great strides in our ties and our partnership with Korea as the result of Foal Eagle,” said Mayer. “I think it is equally important that we all take that same approach to meeting and greeting our Korean friends and allies in the cities we are now visiting.”
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76 is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan. The 31st MEU is permanently forward-deployed from Okinawa.
From Task Force 76 Public Affairs and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs