INDIAN OCEAN (July 25, 2011) FLTLT Chaplain Mark Kleeman of the Royal Australian Air Force administers Lutheran religious services to members aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Erin Devenberg/RELEASED)

INDIAN OCEAN (July 25, 2011) - Sailors aboard the full-time forward-deployed nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) were visited by Chaplain Flight Lieutenant Mark Kleemann from the Royal Australian Air Force as part of the joint military exercise Talisman Sabre 2011.

Members of Australian military forces visit George Washington during the exercise which gives the religious leaders a chance to meet their counterparts.

“One of the benefits is that it opens up the possibilities when responding to the needs of our people.” said Cmdr. Brian Haley, George Washington’s command chaplain. “Not only do we have our own assets but our coalition partners as well and have put together a roster of all of the religious ministry assets, so that we have the ability to move those personnel to where they’re needed the most.”

Chaplain Kleemann spent only half a day aboard George Washington, but that didn’t stop him from taking time to administer Lutheran church communion services to members aboard a ship without a Lutheran pastor.

“Being able to come aboard the George Washington is certainly a great opportunity to worship, to talk to the other chaplains and to get an understanding of the care and support provided on the other ships.” said Kleemann. “George Washington has great support from the chaplains who have good self-care programs and are known and recognized and appreciated for what they do.”

Talisman Sabre 2011 not only provides opportunities to communicate Navy-to-Navy, but Chaplain-to-Chaplain as well.

“The significance is that this is not a Navy Australian Chaplain, it is an Royal Australian Air Force Chaplain.” Said Capt. Sal Aguilera, Seventh Fleet chaplain aboard the USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). “It shows that not only can we work with our coalition partners and cross deck, but we are doing it with all component chaplains. From everyone that I have asked, it has never been done in the history of this exercise.”

As a result of the visit, Chaplain Haley hopes to provide a Saturday Protestant worship service for the Lutheran members aboard the George Washington.

George Washington is currently participating in the Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011, a bilateral exercise designed to train Australian and U.S. Forces in planning and conducting Combined Task Force operations in order to improve Australian and U.S. combat readiness and interoperability.