Quartermaster Seaman Richard Williams stands lookout watch aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) as the ship departs Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Don Patton)

YOKOSUKA, Japan - U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka to conduct sea trials prior to initiating its spring patrol season in the 7th Fleet area of operations, Feb. 16.

During sea trials, Blue Ridge will execute a series of exercises, testing every aspect of the ship and crew, from full power runs and boilers flexes to seamanship training including man overboard and abandon ship drills.

Blue Ridge spent the last six months in selective restricted availability (SRA), making repairs and improvements throughout the ship, ranging from major systems upgrades in Information Systems Department and Engineering Department to habitability upgrades.

"Sea trials is an opportunity to test the crew in all areas of the ship," said Blue Ridge Operations Officer Lt. Daniel Kohlbeck. "We just spent the last six months tied to the pier for renovations and repairs and now, we need to switch our mindset to being at sea. Sea trials will give us the opportunity to adjust to the high-tempo daily routine that being underway demands."

Throughout sea trials, the crew will be expected to maintain and demonstrate its high standards of operability and attention to detail. They will also be tested to show that the ship is ready for patrol season.

"Sea trials is our opportunity to fully test the ship in a safe environment," said Blue Ridge Chief Engineer, Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Hartley. "Throughout dock trials and since the light-off assessment, the engineers are already fully engaged and ready to deploy. We will be doing a full power run to check that all of our systems work in tandem.

"The crews focus will be key in determining if there are any outstanding issues that need to be addressed prior to our deployment in support of 7th Fleet operations," said Hartley.

For many Blue Ridge Sailors, sea trials will be their first time spent underway and the first opportunity for them to familiarize themselves with life at sea, away from Yokosuka.

"It's my first time," said Yeoman 3rd Class Daniel Ross. "I'm pretty nervous and it's definitely a shift from shore command.

"Out at sea, the only people you have to rely on are your shipmates," he said. "I'm working to get my qualifications so I can contribute, especially my ESWS, but overall, I'm looking forward to experiencing life at sea and the challenges that come with it."

Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, for 36 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, Blue Ridge is committed to strengthening and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific region.