TOMAKOMAI, Japan - USS Gridley sailors, currently in town for a port visit, took time out to assist the city with its 45th Annual Tomakomai Skating Festival here, Feb. 6.
Sailors helped with several children's areas, including a giant ice slide, an inner tube run and manually pushed a sled filled with Japanese children.
"We're volunteering our time to ensure these kids have a good time out here today," said Chief Petty Officer Zach Brown, electronics technician. "But its been a lot of fun helping out and meeting the folks here at the festival."
As temperatures dipped below freezing, Gridley sailors were kept warm by the kind reception they received throughout the day.
"It's been absolutely wonderful; the children are really, really happy to see us," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Israel Castro, fire controlman. "I'm having just the greatest time interacting with these kids and I feel they are enjoying interacting with me."
Petty Officer 1st Class James Good, cryptologic technician maintenance, couldn't agree more.
"I've had some kids run up and hug me and many like to measure themselves against me because I'm six-foot-four [inches tall]," he said. "Everyone has been very friendly and supportive of us since we arrived.
"So far, it's definitely been my favorite port visit."
This is the first visit by a U.S. Navy vessel to Tomakomai in 16 years. Gridley deployed with the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, Dec. 20, 2010 and is currently serving in the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.