MANILA, Philippines - The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived in Manila Nov. 30 for a port visit.
The port visit will allow Essex Sailors and embarked Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit the opportunity to enjoy some rest and relaxation and allow them to experience the Philippine culture.
"The Sailors and Marines aboard Essex have worked hard during PHIBLEX (Amphibious Landing Exercise) and the 31st MEU's certification exercise earlier in the fall," said Capt. David Fluker, Essex commanding officer. "This visit to Manila is a good opportunity for us to continue to build relationships and for the crew to get some well deserved time off in port."
Essex departed its forward-deployed port of Sasebo, Japan Sept. 23 and has participated in a certification exercise with the 31st MEU and in PHIBLEX with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which ran from Oct. 20-30. PHIBLEX is a bilateral training exercise designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and continue to build professional and personal relationships with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"It's great that the Sailors and Marines of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group are getting to visit Manila and enjoy the strong ties that our two nations share," said Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11. "Ship visits and subject matter expert training are only two of a number of ongoing activities that we want to share with our Philippine partners under the framework of U.S.-Philippine navy cooperation."
While in port, Essex Sailors and Marines will also have the opportunity to participate in tours offered by the ship's morale, welfare and recreation division, which include local cultural and historic locations, exploring regional attractions, and sampling the local cuisine.
"This is my first time pulling into Manila," said Intelligence Specialist Seaman Destini Harris. "I've heard good things, so it will be nice to experience a different part of the Philippines. I am looking forward to checking out Manila's historic side, and I've even signed up for an MWR tour."
Many Sailors will also be able to spend time with their families and friends who are residents of the Philippines.
"I haven't seen my family in four years," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Minard Nicolas, enlisted galley supervisor and native of the Philippines. "I'm so excited that Essex came to Manila. It's a privilege for me to see the country I was born in. If I wasn't in the Navy, I don't think I would see Manila often. It's a free trip to see my family."
Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, which reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.