USS Makin Island (LHD 8) arrives in Hong Kong, April 7. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Devin M. Langer)

HONG KONG - Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), with Marines of the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived in Hong Kong for a scheduled port visit, April 7.

The port visit will allow the Sailors and Marines to experience the local culture and conduct community relations projects.

Makin Island's commanding officer, Capt. Mark Melson, said port visits and liberty give the crew and embarked Marines a valuable opportunity to experience and gain an appreciation for new cultures.

"The Makin Island team is grateful for the opportunity to visit Hong Kong," said Melson. "Our Sailors and Marines are looking forward to exploring this fantastic city and experiencing all the area has to offer. For many, it’s their first time to Hong Kong, and for all of us it’s a chance to interact with the local population as we continue to strengthen our partnership."

Sailors and Marines are scheduled to participate in several community outreach events during their visit, including sporting events, cultural exchanges, and activities with students at local primary and secondary schools.

Makin Island houses nearly 1,100 Sailors and 1,500 Marines, and is a multi-mission platform capable of launching and recovering fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and amphibious landing craft.

Makin Island is the flagship for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (MKI ARG), which includes amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45).

The San Diego-based ships deployed in October 2016, to the U.S. 3rd, 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation, with embarked forces of the 11th MEU, Amphibious Squadron 5, the "Blackjacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, Assault Craft Unit 5, Fleet Surgical Team 5 and Beachmaster Unit 1.

The 11th MEU consists of the 11th MEU Command Element; the Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced); the Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines; and the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

The MKI ARG/11th MEU provides senior U.S. military leadership and coalition partners with a flexible force able to rapidly respond to contingencies and crises within a region. With ships, aircraft, troops, and logistical equipment, the ARG/MEU is a self-contained and self-sustained task force capable of conducting everything from combat operations to providing humanitarian assistance.

While operating in 7th Fleet, the Navy-Marine Corps team provides maritime security operations, crisis response capability, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence to Indo-Asia Pacific region.