SOUTH CHINA SEA - The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) hosted Republic of Korea (ROK) navy sailors for more than a week after completing a port visit to Busan, Republic of Korea, Oct. 3.
The ROK sailors, one lieutenant and three chief petty officers, had the opportunity to experience operations underway with the ship as it transited to Singapore.
Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Christina Mason said she really enjoyed the chance get to know foreign sailors and discuss the differences and similarities between the two nations and navies.
"It was so cool, because one of them was a sonar technician like me," said Mason. "I got to show him how we operate, and he even helped us with a couple of evolutions."
The program that allows visits like this is designed to let ROK sailors have the unique opportunity to visit foreign navy ships underway.
According to ROK Senior Chief Petty Officer Ill Hoon Cho, the application, test and selection process to take part in this program is extremely competitive.
"This year alone there were more than 500 packages submitted from interested ROK sailors," said Cho. "After applications and performance evaluations were reviewed and test scores compiled, it was narrowed down to 30."
Cho said the test questions are comprised of Korean naval history and English language ability and each year, there are six available spots for officers and six for chief petty officers and above.
While on board, the guests observed daily operations at sea. Their goal was to bring back what they have learned and compare with the way the ROK navy operates.
"I was especially excited to learn about the U.S. Navy's maintenance and material management (3M) program," said Cho. "I am a maintenance chief and it seems the [3M] program on board Cowpens is very well organized and convenient to use."
The ROK navy visitors were anxious to observe US Sailors and their warship operating underway.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our relationship and ensure US and ROK navies are operating together as effectively as possible," said ROK navy Lt. Wook Hyun Min.
"There is always a slight difference in procedures and modes of operation," he said. "Our job is to observe these differences and integrate so that when we operate as a joint force, we are successful."
Lt. Christopher Bongard, Cowpens training officer, said these visits are crucial for the success of Forward Deployed Naval Forces.
"In today's diverse maritime environment, bi-lateral cooperation is becoming more important than ever before. Opportunities like this one are essential to the success of joint nation operations," said Bongard.