CAIRNS, Australia (July 27, 2011) Sailors aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) man the rails prior to the ships port visit to Cairns, Australia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Greg Mitchell/ Released)

CAIRNS, Australia (NNS) - The amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff arrived in Cairns, Australia July 27 as part of the ship's summer patrol to foster positive relations with regional partners.

The crew and embarked staff will have an opportunity to enjoy an area of Australia known for its beautiful landscapes and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef comprised of over 3,000 individual reef systems.

"The crew is full of anticipation about the visit to Cairns," said Blue Ridge Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Kevin W. Ralston. "We just finished a week-long visit to Brisbane, which was a sensational port visit. Now we are anxious to get out and see more of Australia, especially this beautiful city and its surroundings."

While in Cairns, the crew will also be able to interact with Australian citizens, enjoy the culture and take in the sights during numerous scheduled tours all, in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie.

Several community outreach projects are scheduled including visiting residents at Cairns Legacy Widow's Home, and patients at Cairns Hospital. Clean up projects are also planned at Mission Beach and Tully.

"The U.S. and Australia have a proud, longstanding history of working together in this part of the world," said Ralston. "Visiting Cairns is an outstanding opportunity for Blue Ridge Sailors to experience this breathtaking place and interact with our welcoming hosts."

Blue Ridge has made port visits to New Caledonia, and Brisbane since departing its forward-deployed home of Yokosuka, Japan, June 22.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.