In this file photo, Damage Controlman 2nd Class Alvin Poai shows a group of Vietnamese sailors a procedure for patching a pipe during a damage control exchange aboard USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) in July 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Laurie Wood)

DA NANG, Vietnam - The U.S. Navy began naval exchange activities with the Vietnam People’s Navy April 23 in various locations throughout Vietnam, continuing a series of naval activities between the U.S. and Vietnam that last occurred in July 2011.

This five-day collaboration will focus on non-combatant events and skills exchanges in areas such as diving medicine, navigation, and firefighting. Ship visits, band concerts, community service events, and U.S.-Vietnamese navy sporting events are also planned. These activities underscore the closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam.

“This exchange enhances cooperation, and promotes understanding between our Navies,” said Rear Adm. Tom Carney, commander, Task Force 73.

U.S. units participating in the naval exchange activities include the 7th Fleet’s flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19); the guided missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90); the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50); sailors from Task Force 73; and a Mobile Diving and Salvage Detachment.

The U.S. Navy has had several successful port visits to Vietnam in recent years. In 2009, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hosted the first-ever underway embark of visitors from Vietnam aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, and the 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and the destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), commanded by Commander H.B. Le, a Vietnamese-American, visited in November 2009.

In 2010, another underway embark occurred aboard as USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) visited Da Nang as part of naval exchange activities. USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) also visited Vietnam in May 2010 as part of a large-scale humanitarian assistance mission, Pacific Partnership. In 2011, the destroyers USS Howard (DDG 83) and USS Chung- Hoon (DDG 93) visited Da Nang as part of the 2011 naval exchange activities while USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) supported Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command missions with survey support.

In addition to port visits, five U.S. Navy military sealift command ships have undergone voyage repairs at Vietnamese shipyards. Most recently, in 2012, USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) had voyage repairs at Cam Ranh Bay Shipyard.