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The USS Mustin arrived at Yokosuka Naval Base on July 8 to join the Forward Deployed Naval Forces.

The USS Mustin arrived at Yokosuka Naval Base on July 8 to join the Forward Deployed Naval Forces. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Midshipmen 3rd Class Ka Xiong and Lindsay Bochner thought they were eating shredded vegetables when they ventured to Tokyo on Sunday during their first week in Japan.

Then they realized their lunch was looking back at them.

“It was some kind of small white fish with little eyes,” said Xiong, one of 10 midshipmen detached to the ship for the summer. Xiong tried it. The verdict: “Not bad.”

Last week was full of firsts for the 300-person complement of the USS Mustin. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer arrived in Yokosuka on July 8 to replace the frigate USS Vandegrift, which leaves in August to take the Mustin’s place in San Diego.

The Mustin is not only Yokosuka’s newest arrival but also the 7th Fleet’s newest ship. Commissioned in 2003, it has the “latest and greatest” in terms of the vertical launch system, Ensign William Taft said.

For most of the Mustin’s crew, this marks the first trip to the Far East, but Midshipman 1st Class William Bridges got hit with a double whammy.

“First, we’re dealing with new military culture, which is a lot different than college life,” Bridges said. “Then we’re jumping into Japanese culture as well.”

While the first days of “being immersed in a land of incomprehensible letters and scribbles” were tough, Bridges found people friendly, helpful and willing to put him on the right track.

Not all of the Mustin’s crew are new to Japan — roughly 40 percent of the Vandergrift’s enlisted ranks swapped over to the ship last week.

Seaman Danny Renteria is a former Vandegrift sailor. His advice to the newcomers: “Get out of Yokosuka and see the country.”

“People tell me ‘I heard Japan was boring.’ But that’s not true at all,” said Renteria. “I’ve been to the temples in Kyoto and Mount Fuji. It’s only boring if you make it boring.”

Japan was Seaman Apprentice Jamaal Grimes’ first choice, so he was excited when he received orders to the Mustin, he said.

“I love it,” Grimes said. “It’s humid, but I’m getting used to that.”

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