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SUBIC BAY, Philippines - Sailors and Marines assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), and amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) arrived in Subic Bay, Philippines, Sept. 16 for a port visit and to begin a major bilateral exercise.
The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) along with Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will participate in Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2014, three weeks of bilateral, air-ground and amphibious training alongside the Philippine Marine Corps.
"This opportunity to train alongside our Republic of the Philippines counterparts is a rarity for Southern California based ARGs and MEUs. I thank our hosts for extending the invitation for us to jointly expand our operational horizons as we share tactics and techniques on ranges and training areas that are new to us," said Capt. Malcolm Potts, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 1.
While in Subic Bay, the crew will participate in community relations projects, experience the local culture and take tours provided by the ship's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department.
For some of the crew this is their first visit to the Philippines, but for others it's where they were born.
"I can't wait to see my family," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Joy De Dios, who is from Baguio City, Philippines and hasn't been back in 16 years. "Growing up, my aunts stayed home and took care of us while my parents worked all day."
De Dios' aunts and cousins are planning to meet her in Subic Bay, where she says she will get to catch up with them and treat them with dinner and a spa day. "It will be a chance for me to give back to them, instead of them taking care of me," she said.
Potts emphasized the cultural significance of the port visit and personally what the visit will mean for many of the crew members.
"Seeing new places and experiencing different cultures was a key factor many of us chose when joining the Navy or Marine Corps, and this will be our first port visit this deployment, as well as, the first time a large percentage of the Blue and Green team will set foot outside the United States. We look forward to seeing and experiencing the natural beauty Luzon has to offer," he said.
Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Marc Ginez, who grew up in Urdaneta City, Philippines said he is thrilled to visit. "It will be a surprise for my family," he said. "I haven't told them yet, but I plan to have them meet me at the pier."
The ARG is currently deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.