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TOMAKOMAI, Japan - U.S. Seventh Fleet command ship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), arrived in Tomakomai, Feb. 3 for a goodwill port visit.
During the visit, Sailors from Blue Ridge, embarked 7th Fleet staff and Marines from Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team-Pacific (FAST-PAC) plan to interact with local children at the Tomakomai Ice Skaking Festival. The 7th Fleet Band is scheduled to perform at the festival, along with scheduled performances at the 63rd Annual Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival, Chitose Outlet Mall and Aeon Shopping Center.
"The crew is very excited to visit the Hokkaido region during this very popular season with amazing local events," said Blue Ridge Commanding Officer Capt. Daniel Grieco. "Blue Ridge does not get the opportunity to visit this prefecture and specifically Tomakomai very often and it is a great opportunity for our Sailors to get out and meet the wonderful people here, experience all the exceptional cultural opportunities such as the Skate Festival, Sapporo Snow Festival and unique regional cuisine."
For some Blue Ridge crewmembers this will be the second port visit in the northernmost prefecture of Japan, Hokkaido. In Hokkaido, the city of Sapporo is the renowned location for the Annual Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival. Beyond the fascination exhibit of snow and ice sculptures, which draws tourists in from around the world, Sapporo also offers great winter sports activities such as skiing, snowboarding and sledding to visiting Sailors and Marines.
“My mom has told me that going to the ice festival in Sapporo is going to be the best experience of my life,” said Electrician’s Mate Fireman Alexis Hardwick. “I am very excited about getting the chance to see the festival.”
Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa with an operating detachment in Sasebo.