USS Sterett (DDG 104) and PLAN Sailors practice tying knots together before a seamanship competition during the ship’s port visit. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Byron C. Linder)

ZHANJIANG, China - Sailors from the guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) spent time in port here building relationships with their People's Liberation Army (Navy) (PLAN) counterparts through both leisure and professional activities.

Activities commenced June 13 with Sailors travelling to a multipurpose sports field on the Chinese naval base. The first event saw the U.S. and PLAN sailors brave the Zhanjiang heat and humidity to match strength and technique in four rounds of tug-of-war, with the last two matchups seeing the U.S. and PLAN integrate their teams.

The sailors then dispersed to an outdoor basketball court and nearby billiards hall. In the hall, Sterett Sailors matched skills and skill with their PLAN counterparts, ricocheting the balls around the blue, felt-topped tables.

On the basketball court, Sterett and PLAN alternated players to compete for a full hour. Following successful baskets, a Chinese drumbeat augmented the cheers from a vocal audience shouting encouragement from courtside. Simultaneously, on the soccer field, spectators watched from a distance as U.S. and PLAN sailors sprinted up and down the length of the field, the infrequent goals producing loud applause.

Sterett's Command Master Chief Monique Greenidge, praised the friendly competition put forth by both Sterett and PLAN.

"This was outstanding. My Sailors enjoyed every moment to its fullest. We certainly enjoyed playing with our Chinese counterparts and look forward to doing this again soon," she said.

As the sports concluded, a second exchange started aboard Sterett and PLAN ship Huangshan (FFG 570), with U.S. culinary specialists swapping places with their PLAN colleagues to prepare lunch. Sterett's cooks prepared typical Chinese food aboard Huangshan, while Huangshan sailors contributed to the preparation of Mexican food for Taco Tuesday aboard Sterett.

Culinary Specialist Seaman Johari Jelks, an East Chicago, Indiana native, went to Huangshan and expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to ply his trade with new menu items in a new venue.

"I didn't know what to expect going in, but once you get past the differences on the surface, there was a lot that was very familiar," Jelks said. "You want to make a good meal, and that was the focus for all of us."

Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Green, an Atlanta native, welcomed the opportunity for the PLAN sailors to get a firsthand look at Sterett's food service operation.

"We all had a really good time. It's cool they got to see how we do business, and it was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Green said.

In port for five days, Sterett Sailors also participated in a knot-trying competition, against their PLAN counterparts and had the opportunity to experience Zhanjiang culture out in town.

Sterett is part of the Sterett-Dewey Surface Action Group (Sterett-Dewey SAG) and arrived in Zhanjiang with the embarked command staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 and an embarked helicopter detachment from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49, June 12.

The Sterett-Dewey SAG is operating with regional naval services to conduct routine patrols, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation activities to enhance regional security and stability in the Western Pacific.

U.S. 3rd Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy, constantly coordinating with U.S. 7th Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability throughout the Pacific theater of operations.

Sailors aboard USS Sterett (DDG 104) prepare lunch in the ship’s galley with PLAN sailors, June 13. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Byron C. Linder)
U.S. and PLAN sailors play basketball together, June 13. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Byron C. Linder)
Soccer was one of several sports U.S. and PLAN sailors competed in during the port visit. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Byron C. Linder)
PLAN Sailors tour USS Sterett (DDG 104), June 14. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Byron C. Linder)