MALDIVES (Feb. 26, 2011) The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) hosts a women’s outreach group from Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) during a tour of the ship, which included an open discussion and lunch. Higgins is in Maldives to conducted exercises with the MNDF to strengthen maritime security, diplomatic and bilateral relations between Maldives and the United States. (U.S. Navy photo by Fire Controlman 3rd Class James Lamping)

MALDIVES - The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) visited Maldives, Feb. 25-26 and conducted Maritime Domain Awareness training with the Maldives Coast Guard.

The Maldives islands in the Indian Ocean are located in a vast exclusive economic zone, which is remote and prone to pirates, illegal trafficking and illegal fishing. Such bilateral trainings enhance maritime security and stability.

On top of the training, Higgins hosted 47 women serving in various branches of Maldivian government and law enforcement on board the ship. More than 25 female crew members from Higgins volunteered to take part in the open discussion, lunch, and to lead tours of the ship.

The visit by the women’s outreach group served as an opportunity to further build upon the growing relations between the Maldives and the United States, said Lt. Megan Granger, Higgins’ weapons officer, who coordinated the event.

“Both Higgins’ crew and Maldivian service members found the interaction educational, inspirational, and fun,” Granger said. “By the end of the day, we found common ground amidst our diverse cultures and professional roles.”

Fifteen Sailors from Higgins also took part in a basketball game against 20 members of the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) in the capital city of Male.

“The game was a team effort, ultimately resulting in the U.S. Navy’s first basketball win in the city of Male,” said Lt.j.g. Jordan Stutzman, Higgins’ navigator.

The last day in port, 10 Higgins Sailors held a joint physical training session and a physical readiness program discussion with seven Maldivian Coast Guard members.

Higgins ended its stay in Maldives with a reception on the flight deck with more than 50 distinguished guests in attendance.

Among the guests were MNDF Principal Director of Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Nilam and the Director of the Coast Guard Wing, Maj. Mohamed Ibrahim.

Higgins’ Commanding Officer Cmdr. Rome Ruiz, gave opening remarks, followed by remarks from Ibrahim.

“You have been blessed from the top and from the seas,” said Ibrahim. “I can only hope the relationship between our two countries will prosper and grow for many years to come.”

During the reception, Ibrahim, a 1997 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and the first graduate from the Maldives, discovered Higgins’ Executive Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Alex Mabini was one of his classmate. The reception ended with a gift exchange and a tour of the ship.

USS Higgins is assigned to the Carl Vinson Strike Group, homeported in San Diego and currently in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

Carl Vinson Strike Group consists of flagship USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, guided-missile cruisers USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), and the embarked Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1. Ships assigned to DESRON 1 include the USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Higgins (DDG 76), USS Rentz (FFG 46), and USS McClusky (FFG 41).