LAEM CHABANG, Thailand (Aug. 7, 2011) Capt. Phil Gwaltney, command chaplain, U.S. Pacific Fleet, speaks to a collection of Royal Thai Armed Forces and U.S. Navy chaplains about conducting religious ministries services underway during a visit to USS George Washington (CVN 73). (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Pittman)

LAEM CHABANG, Thailand (NNS) - The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) hosted 20 Thai military chaplains to participate in a "ministry at sea" workshop Aug. 7.

The Thai chaplains, from all branches of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, came aboard George Washington to participate in the workshop with chaplains from George Washington, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63).

"We are hosting this visit aboard George Washington for multiple reasons, but key among them is to continue to foster our relationship with the Royal Thai Armed Forces," said Capt. Phil Gwaltney, command chaplain, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "That's why we're hosting this workshop, to discuss everything that U.S. Navy chaplains do for our Sailors, so the Thai navy can begin to see some new opportunities for their chaplains to be supporting their Sailors and families."

Nearly a dozen Navy chaplains participated in the event.

"This is the largest collection of U.S. Navy chaplains that we've had [in Thailand] recently so we used the opportunity to bring the chaplains from the carrier, cruiser, DESRON and air wing together with the Thai chaplains," said Gwaltney. "This gave us the chance to introduce ourselves to each other and to have a discussion about the numerous opportunities this presents us."

Thai chaplains that attended included Royal Thai Army Col. Chainat Yatchimplee, director of chaplains for the Royal Thai Armed Forces, and Royal Thai Navy Capt. Manoon Channuan, director of chaplains for the Royal Thai Navy.

"This meeting is a very good opportunity for Thai chaplains and U.S. chaplains to join together to achieve a common goal," said Yatchimplee. "This makes me very happy and very proud in our chosen occupation as chaplains and I hope the liaison between us will go to new heights and provide many opportunities to work together."

Upon arriving aboard the carrier, George Washington's command chaplain, Cmdr. Brian Haley led the guests on a tour of the ship, highlighting the flight deck, hangar bay, forecastle, library and chapel. The tour ended with an exchange of gifts from both sides.

"One of the Pacific Fleet commander's goals is for all elements of our forces to develop as much interoperability as possible," said Gwaltney. "For chaplains, that really means that when there is a future disaster, can our chaplaincies from the Royal Thai Navy and the U.S. Navy work together to help mitigate the effects of that disaster and to help support the recovery in the event of a natural disaster. So the more we do together, whether it be community service projects or religious exchanges, the more we get comfortable and we find opportunities to work together."

George Washington is currently making a port visit to Thailand as an opportunity to strengthen ties with the partner nation. Port visits increase mutual understanding through positive interaction events such as tours of the ship, receptions and sports and community service projects. This supports regional cooperation on common concerns which are of the utmost importance to continued progress.

For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.