USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departs Qingdao, Aug. 8. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Michael Hendricks)

QINGDAO, China - U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed Qingdao, China, Aug. 8 after successfully concluding a visit emphasizing theater security cooperation and reinforcing a positive navy-to-navy relationship with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) North Sea Fleet.

While in Qingdao, Blue Ridge and embarked Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 officers hosted officers from the PLA(N) to conduct planning for a search and rescue (SAR) exercise.

“We were able to come together and successfully outline a cohesive plan for an upcoming training evolution,” said Blue Ridge Operations Officer Lt. Rory Schneider. “The goal is to increase our chances for success by utilizing both of our resources in the event of a distress at sea scenario.”

Qingdao is a major seaport, naval base and industrial center in Eastern China, and home of the Tsingtao Brewery. While in Qingdao, Sailors toured a PLA(N) frigate, hosted guided ship tours for more than 400 PLA(N) personnel, participated in friendly tug of war, basketball and soccer events with members of the North Sea Fleet and experienced local culture and cuisine.

“It’s not the Olympics, but I still take pride in knowing we had the chance to represent our country with exhibition games,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Terrance Phillips, captain of the Blue Ridge/ Commander, 7th Fleet basketball team “The Admirals.”

“Our navies are engaging operationally, but playing sports together allows us to also connect on a more personal level.”

Established in 1943 in Australia, and based in Qingdao at the end of World War II, 7th Fleet has been promoting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region for more than 70 years. Seventh Fleet’s area of operation spans from the International Date Line in the East to the India/Pakistan border in the West, and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South.

Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.