Ships ahoy at Sasebo: Minesweepers return home
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The twin minesweepers USS Guardian and USS Patriot arrived home in Sasebo on Friday from Vladivostok, Russia, where they participated in the first exercise involving U.S. minesweepers and the Russian Federation Pacific Fleet.
The Mine Countermeasures Division 11 ships were in Vladivostok through the Independence Day weekend, an annual tradition for the two ships and their crews of 75 sailors each, according to Lt. Edward Sisk, Commander Task Force 76 spokesman.
This year, U.S. and Russian naval commanders decided to stage a passing exercise, which Guardian skipper Lt. Cmdr. Bert Yordy described as emerging from convenience.
“Since we were already there,” Yordy said, “as were elements of their naval force, we engaged in a mechanical sweep exercise to gain experience in interacting with the Russians. It went very smoothly. I’d say that the Russian officers, to a man, were fantastic to work with.”
The Guardian left Sasebo in early April, steaming to Thailand for the annual Cobra Gold exercise. The ship also made port calls in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and Pohang, South Korea.
The Patriot was in dry dock for outer hull repairs until three weeks ago, when the ship left for Vladivostok to join the Guardian.
During the annual Vladivostok port calls, the minesweepers’ crews and Russian sailors conduct a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony at the Russian Federation Pacific Fleet Battle Memorial.
The weather was rough during the visit, Yordy said, but the general atmosphere was pleasant and their hosts — who this year were celebrating the 150th anniversary of Vladivostok’s founding — were “very warm and friendly.”
He said another highlight of the underway period was time spent training some of the senior enlisted sailors to perform duties normally carried out by officers when at sea.
“They actually filled those posts on our way back, which is tremendous experience for them; they did a fantastic job,” he said.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Meyer, leading petty officer of Guardian’s combat division, was among those earning qualifications letting him serve in an officer’s slot on the return trip.
“This was a rare and excellent opportunity. Several of us took him up on it and he taught us. I served as the officer of the deck on the return to Sasebo,” he said.
After Meyer disembarked the Guardian, the remaining sailors on both ships began coming ashore and were greeted with handshakes, hugs and kisses.
Meanwhile, Cody Colbert, 12, was eager to see his father, Chief Petty Officer Don Colbert, walk down the pier.
“I’ve missed him a lot,” he said. “We have a lot of fun when we are together.”