La Salle makes first visit to Ireland
Irish eyes smiled upon USS La Salle sailors last week.
The Gaeta, Italy-based 6th Fleet flagship made a port visit to the land of Guinness from May 17 through Saturday.
It was the ship’s first stop in Ireland — and its farthest trip north — since the 6th Fleet area of responsibility expanded to include the North Atlantic in 2002, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Fleming, fleet spokesman.
“The purpose, really, was to promote goodwill between the two countries,” he said in a phone interview from the 6th Fleet flagship.
For the lone official event, the ship hosted a reception attended by James C. Kenny, U.S. ambassador to Ireland; Vice Adm. Harry Ulrich, 6th Fleet commander; and members of the Irish Defense Forces.
For most of the visit, the 700 sailors explored Dublin, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to the Guinness brewery. Fleming said there were no incidents in the city, famous for its nightlife.
Some, including Petty Officer 2nd Class Megan Williams, ventured into the countryside. She took a daylong Celtic history bus tour.
“I took a course on Irish myths in college ... and I wanted to see in person what it was really like,” she said.
For expert tips on Dublin, sailors looked to a shipmate, Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Dermot Smith. The La Salle docked a short drive from his relatives’ home.
The machinist’s mate hadn’t been back to Ireland since moving to the States four years ago. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks prompted the Irish citizen to join the Navy.
“I thought I owed something back,” said Smith, 26, who is applying for U.S. citizenship.
His mother, brother, sister, nieces and nephew waited at the pier for him last week. They toured the ship, ate on the mess decks and met Capt. Herman A. Shelanski, the commanding officer.
“They thought the ship was wonderful,” Smith said. “They couldn’t believe how nice everybody was.”