USS Boxer (LHD 4) approaches Hong Kong, March 21. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brian Caracci)

HONG KONG - Amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) arrived in Hong Kong, March 21, for a scheduled port visit.

The visit comes at the conclusion of Exercise Ssang Yong 16, and marks the first port call for Boxer since deploying 37 days ago.

During the visit, crew members will be able to enjoy the local culture and cuisine, attend organized tours, and to participate in subject-matter expert exchanges, cultural exchanges and sporting events aimed at strengthening ties.

"I'm pretty stoked about it," said Brian Rockenbach, Boxer's afloat recreation specialist. "We didn't come here last deployment. We went to a ton of other places, but not Hong Kong. I think this will be good for everybody. Hong Kong really looks like a great international city from all of the research I've done."

Boxer Sailors will also have an opportunity to experience Hong Kong's rich culture through a variety of tours sponsored by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) department. MWR will offer 14 tours in all, featuring everything from metropolitan shopping sprees to countryside excursions to mainland China.

"It's important for us to get a little 'off-time' just to keep ourselves level-headed," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Albert Banner. "Decompressing ourselves and enjoying ourselves is vital to working underneath the various conditions throughout the ship; plus, it's always nice to tell family members and friends that I've done this."

In addition to the MWR tours, the ship's Religious Ministries Department organized several cultural exchange projects and sporting events to provide the crew the opportunity to interact with Hong Kong residents and students, and to foster a sense of goodwill between locals and Boxer crew members.

"We have five events planned over the course of two days," said Chief Religious Programs Specialist Joseph Stroney. "To see the interaction between the Sailors and Marines and how they interact with host-nation civilians, [and] there's always a great connection there. Even if there's a language barrier, you're still able to communicate and get your point across, and everybody has a great time."

USS Boxer is the flagship of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which consists of Boxer, USS Harper's Ferry (LSD 49), USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and their embarked complement of Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Boxer ARG and the embarked 13th MEU are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.