USS Sampson (DDG 102) file photo. (U.S. Navy/PO3 Johans Chavarro)

PACIFIC OCEAN - USS Sampson (DDG 102) departed Hawaii Nov. 3 to participate in the Royal New Zealand Navy International Naval Review in Auckland, New Zealand.

Culminating a request extended by the Government of New Zealand for a U.S. Navy ship to participate in the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebration, Sampson will become the first U.S. Navy ship to visit New Zealand in more than 30 years. As the ship celebrates RNZN heritage, it will remain assigned to the commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet as part of an initiative based on U.S. Pacific Fleet’s historic roots in the region.

“Sampson’s participation in the Royal New Zealand Navy’s International Naval Review is an excellent opportunity to show the shared heritage and strong partnership that already exists between our navies,” said Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet. “It’s also the latest example of the 3rd Fleet Forward initiative and a return to how we historically employed our numbered fleet commanders across the entire Pacific Ocean when 3rd Fleet was first established more than 70 years ago."

Prior to departure, the Everett, Washington-based Sampson spent two weeks in the Hawaii operating area completing pre-deployment training. While in Auckland from Nov. 17-22, the crew of Sampson will participate in a multi-ship pass-in-review, march in an international parade, and compete in sports tournaments with the crews of other participating ships.

“The officers and crew aboard Sampson are excited and honored to represent the United States during the visit celebrating this significant milestone for the Royal New Zealand Navy,” said Cmdr. Tim LaBenz, the commanding officer of USS Sampson. “In addition to maintaining strong historical ties, several Sailors aboard Sampson have participated in exercises like the world’s largest maritime exercise, RIMPAC, with their New Zealand counterparts so this visit represents an opportunity to deepen already close ties between sailors.”

Sampson is assigned to U.S. 3rd Fleet and is currently on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific. Though operating in the Western Pacific, an area historically controlled by the 7th Fleet commander, Sampson will remain assigned to the 3rd Fleet commander. This is part of the Pacific Fleet-led initiative to increase the involvement and operational control of the San Diego-based 3rd Fleet beyond the international dateline to increase the command and control capabilities in the dynamic Western Pacific theater.