USS Rushmore (LSD 47) file photo. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Amanda R. Gray)

VANUATU - Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), with embarked U.S. Coast Guard maritime law enforcement personnel, anchored off the coast of Vanuatu for a scheduled port visit, Sept. 15.

During the visit, the crew provided tours of the ship, allowing visitors the opportunity to see and experience life aboard a U.S. Navy warship.

"We value our partnership with the countries in the South Pacific and are committed to assisting them in enhancing maritime security and keeping the sea lanes open for the benefit of all,” said Rushmore’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. John Ryan. “This event is a unique opportunity for the crew to demonstrate the pride and professionalism of the Navy and reciprocate the hospitality we receive when we make foreign port calls.”

The United States and Vanuatu established diplomatic relations in 1986, six years after Vanuatu's independence from France and the United Kingdom. In 2016, the United States and Vanuatu signed a historic maritime cooperation law enforcement agreement, which included a ship rider agreement. Ship rider agreements allow maritime law enforcement officers from island nations like Vanuatu to use U.S. ships as maritime platforms from which to conduct boardings of commercial vessels operating in their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

The regularly scheduled port call reinforced the U.S. Navy's commitment to theater security cooperation and freedom of navigation operations within the South Pacific region.

Under the operational control of U.S. 3rd Fleet, Rushmore and embarked U.S. Coast Guard District 14 maritime law enforcement personnel departed San Diego for its Oceania Maritime Support Initiative (OMSI) deployment, Aug. 14.

OMSI is a Secretary of Defense program aimed to diminish transnational illegal activity on the high seas in the Pacific Island Nations of Oceania’s exclusive EEZ and enhance regional security and inoperability with partner nations.

Rushmore is homeported in San Diego and is part of the U.S. Naval Surface Forces and U.S. 3rd Fleet. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. Third Fleet constantly coordinates 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.