By Ensign Cassidy A. Rasmussen, USS Port Royal Public Affairs
Indonesian naval officers stood in formation on the pier and a military band played patriotic songs Dec. 20 as USS Port Royal (CG 73) pushed away from her berth at Tanjung-Priok Port in Jakarta, after a four-day port visit to Indonesia's capital province.
"We were thoroughly impressed and honored by the warm welcome extended to us here," said Capt. David B. Adler, Port Royal commanding officer. "The hospitality was remarkable. I already knew that this port visit would provide my crew with the chance to interact with the culture, but on a grander scale we saw an expression of the friendship that exists between the United States and Indonesia."
The farewell show as Port Royal pulled away from Jakarta was only a small demonstration compared to the festivities during the first hours of her arrival Dec. 17. As local dignitaries welcomed Adler with flowers and fruit, while traditional dancers, fire-breathers and other performers entertained the crew on the pier.
"In my 20 years in the Navy, I don't think I've ever received a warmer welcome ... even when returning to homeport," said Executive Officer, Cmdr. Steven Okun.
Indonesia's hospitality did not stop at the pier. Local citizens embraced Port Royal Sailors
as they ventured off the ship to explore the city and participate in athletic games and community relations events.
On Dec. 19, a small group of Sailors loaded boxes of toys and hygiene items into a truck for delivery to the U.S. Embassy warehouse, where representatives from three non-governmental organizations received them for distribution to the city and in Indonesia's rural interior.
The boxes were donations from Project Handclasp, which is a program that allows private organizations to donate toys and other items for forward-deployed military units to distribute overseas.
"The timing of these gifts is perfect," said Sister Maria from Yayasan Emmanuel, which provides housing, education and medical care to orphaned, abandoned, and neglected children. "At this time of year we want to give more, but we have so little to give. Thank you for these gifts."
Port Royal Sailors also spent two days welcoming aboard various groups for ship tours and receptions. A tour with groups from local high schools Dec. 19 impressed many students and teachers.
"The kids were all really excited to be there," said Lt. Keith Ludwick. "I could tell they really appreciated the opportunity to tour our ship."
"Everyone was really friendly," remarked Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Van Hill, reflecting on the port visit. "I was really excited to get to experience this."
U.S. Navy port visits such as Port Royal's visit to Indonesia represent an important opportunity to promote peace and stability in the Asian-Pacific region of the world, demonstrate commitment to regional partners and foster growing relationships.
U.S. 7th Fleet forces are tangible proof of the U.S. commitment to peace and stability in the Oceana region, and they directly support U.S. national goals of strengthening alliances, defeating global threats, and preserving the free flow of trade.