Fire Controlman 2nd Class Bill Alexander stands watch as USS Makin Island (LHD 8) sits at anchor in Hong Kong, April 7. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Devin M. Langer)

HONG KONG - The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) departed Hong Kong April 11, following a scheduled port visit.

The four-day visit allowed nearly 2,500 Sailors and Marines assigned to the ship and embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit the opportunity to experience Hong Kong's culture and engage with the community.

The ship hosted a reception for distinguished guests April 10, to recognize the prosperous partnership between the United States and the People's Republic of China and Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

Distinguished visitors included Consul General of the United States to Hong Kong and Macau Kurt W. Tong and Senior Captain Fang Yuxin, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison.

"Ship visits are a critically important element for building trust, understanding and mutual cooperation between the United States and Hong Kong," said Tong. "Being able to visit Hong Kong as a port call is a tradition that we cherish. The Sailors were able to enjoy the world-class hospitality of the citizens of Hong Kong and take in some of the culture."

The reception included food and refreshments prepared by the ship's supply department, a ceremonial cake cutting, and the opportunity for guests to admire the view of Hong Kong's skyline from the ship's flight deck.

"I can't begin to express my gratitude to our guests for attending the reception here tonight," said Makin Island's Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Melson. "It is through engagements such as this that we maintain positive relationships and build further upon these friendships that, despite the complex issues we face in the world, enable us to foster continued cooperation in the future."

Tong also highlighted the achievements of the ship's crew while extending thanks on behalf of the United States.

"I want to thank the Sailors and Marines of Makin Island for their service," said Tong. "We appreciate it when they go out for months on end. They believe in the cause and are professionals brave enough to serve."

During their stay, Sailors and Marines hosted ship tours, played sports with students at local schools, explored the area and learned about the culture with local citizens through the Hong Kong Hosts program and participated in Morale, Welfare and Recreation events to explore the city's attractions and heritage.

"It's wonderful to see the positive impacts our outreach efforts bring to the community," said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Tiffani Hess, from Carson, California. "The people of Hong Kong have been so welcoming, and our Sailors and Marines have found a great deal of fulfillment in interacting with them. It's been a very educational and enjoyable experience."

Melson, a first-time visitor to Hong Kong, praised the city and its people for their exceptional hospitality. "After experiencing the sights, sounds and the culture, I can confidently say that it has been one of the crew's favorite port visits."

Makin Island, with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visited Hong Kong to experience the city's rich culture and history as part of ongoing operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

People’s Liberation Army Deputy Chief of Staff of the PLA Hong Kong Garrison Senior Captain Fang Yuxin, left, U.S. Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau Kurt W. Tong, and Capt. Mark A. Melson, commanding officer of Makin Island, cut a cake during a reception aboard the ship, April 10. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Asher Allen)
Lt. Tom Viger shows an MV-22 Osprey to members of the Boy Scouts Association during a tour of USS Makin Island (LHD 8), April 9. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Devin M. Langer)