Sailors from USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) move rocks and soil while helping to complete construction of a retaining wall to prevent a nearby river from eroding the landscape at Home and Life Orphanage Foundation during a community service project. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Antonio Turretto Ramos)

PHUKET, Thailand - The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) arrived in Phuket, Thailand, for the first time Dec. 30 for a port visit.

The visit allows the independently deployed ships the opportunity to experience the local culture and customs, enjoy a variety of recreational activities and participate in a community service event.

"I first visited Phuket 15 years ago and it's great to be back," said Cmdr. Michael Atwell, Fort Worth commanding officer. "I know our Sailors will enjoy it here and this is a great way for them to be good ambassadors of the United States while meeting the warm and friendly people of Thailand."

In addition to the community service event, the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program representative informed Sailors about opportunities for tours.

"One of the advantages of LCS is that we have a small crew and it opens up more affordable and diverse options when we pull into port because we don't need to book tours for large groups of Sailors," explained Naval Aircrewman-Tactical Helicopter 1st Class William Petri, Fort Worth's MWR representative. "Unlike larger platforms, we have a relatively smaller footprint and that allows us to collectively experience more."

In an effort to increase integration between the U.S. and partner nations in Southeast Asia, Fort Worth embarked one naval officer from Sri Lanka and one coast guard officer from the Maldives prior to making the transit to Phuket. The embarked officers stood watch with the crew of Fort Worth and participated in underway operations, gaining firsthand knowledge of what life is like on the Navy's newest class of ship.

Fort Worth is the second LCS to deploy as part of an initiative for up to four rotational deployments of these ships simultaneously to U.S. 7th Fleet in the coming years. Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare.

The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build maritime partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.