YOKOSUKA, Japan (Feb. 21, 2012) Quartermaster Seaman Rodger Weaver and Yeoman 3rd Class Randy Sarran hoist flags up the mast as U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departs Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cale Hatch)

YOKOSUKA, Japan - U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka for patrol Feb. 21.

Commanded by Capt. Daniel Grieco, Blue Ridge h is manned by more than 700 Sailors, including embarked 7th Fleet staff and Marines from Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Pacific.

Blue Ridge will visit foreign ports in order to engage allies and strengthen partnerships across the Asia-Pacific region. Sailors and Marines will also be participating in several community service projects with partner navies and local aid groups.

"USS Blue Ridge is departing for a deployment throughout the 7th Fleet area of operations and will conduct port calls to strengthen regional ties while training to maintain the crew's sea qualifications," said Blue Ridge Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Zachary McCarty.

The Blue Ridge morale, welfare and recreation department is offering tours to service members so they have the opportunity to go to local markets, theme parks, memorials and other cultural sites during their time off. Several Sailors said they were especially interested in going shopping in the foreign countries they visit.

"I can't wait to go shopping," exclaimed Culinary Specialist Seaman Lorena Cardoza. "Also, I'm looking forward to taking cultural tours and relaxing on the beach."

While Sailors will get the chance to enjoy rest and relaxation opportunities, Blue Ridge will be fully operational during the patrol. Blue Ridge will provide advanced communications capabilities throughout the 7th Fleet, supporting theater security cooperation, fleet coordination and engagement goals during the patrol.

The leader in bold, forward-presence at sea, Blue Ridge has been forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for nearly 33 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Scott H. Swift, Blue Ridge is instrumental in forging partnerships in the region while leading the fleet with its advanced shipboard communications systems.