USS Essex (LHD 2) steams into Victoria Harbor, June 5. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Bradley Gee)

HONG KONG - The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) anchored in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a scheduled port visit June 5.

More than 3,000 Sailors and Marines embarked on Essex will represent the U.S. Navy as ambassadors, as they create friendships and goodwill with the people of Hong Kong.

"The Sailors and Marines onboard Essex are some very professional and talented men and women," said Capt. Pete Mantz, Essex's commanding officer. "They have worked hard during the preparations prior to our deployment and during the transit across the Pacific and are ready for some well-deserved liberty."

While anchored in Hong Kong, Essex Sailors and Marines will have the opportunity to enjoy the local culture and excitement Hong Kong has to offer while they explore the city on Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tours.

"I've never been to Hong Kong before and I'm very excited to finally have the opportunity to visit," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class Rina Burns. "I'm looking forward to visiting Disney World Hong Kong and I am very much looking forward to the food, the culture and, of course, the shopping."

In addition to the MWR tours, the ship's Religious Ministries Department has organized several community relations (COMREL) projects to provide the crew the opportunity to interact with Hong Kong residents and inspire a sense of goodwill among locals in need of assistance.

"The Fleet Liaison Group helped us find some good COMRELs to give our Sailors and Marines a chance to interact in a positive way with the host nation and show them the positive side of the United States and her people," said Cmdr. Doran Kelvington, Essex's command chaplain.

USS Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which consists of Essex, USS Rushmore (LSD 47), USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and their embarked complement of Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU).

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 7th area of operations.