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BALI, Indonesia - The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) arrived in Bali, Indonesia Nov. 20 for a port visit.
The Bali visit will provide Essex and Stethem Sailors and Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) an opportunity to experience the local culture and participate in several exchanges in the local community.
"This is a unique opportunity for the Sailors and Marines aboard Essex to experience the culture of Bali," said Capt. David Fluker, Essex commanding officer. "They have worked hard this year during Operation Tomodachi providing aid to Japan and more recently during PHIBLEX. They've earned the opportunity to get some rest and relaxation, and I know the crew is very happy to visit a place they hear so many great things about."
During the visit, Fluker and the Commander of Amphibious Squadron 11 Capt. Bradley Lee will host an evening reception on the flight deck for Balinese dignitaries.
"We are very excited to visit what is considered to be a world class travel destination," said Lee. "We share many maritime common interests and seafaring traditions with Indonesia, and this visit gives us a great opportunity to strengthen our bonds and increase communication between our militaries."
The Sailors and Marines will have the opportunity to see the essence of Indonesian culture through several tours offered by the ship's morale, welfare and recreation department such as scuba diving, island boat tours, white water rafting and more.
"This is my first time visiting Bali and I'm excited about it," said Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Otis Hill. "I plan on enjoying the beaches, the white water rafting tour and the local culture."
For many Sailors and Marines this is their first time visiting Bali, but for Chief Hospital Corpsman Gunawan Hartanto, a biomedical technician aboard Essex, it will be a chance to get in touch with his heritage. Hartanto was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and left for the United States when he was 10 years old.
"I haven't been to Indonesia since I was a child," said Hartanto. "I'm very excited for this port visit to eat some traditional Indonesian dishes and see part of the country I've never been to."
Essex departed its forward deployed port of Sasebo, Japan Sept. 21 for a patrol of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Since leaving Japan, Essex and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) has completed a Marine certification exercise and participated in Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Essex also embarked four officers from the Indonesian navy, marine corps and air force to serve as liaison officers to build relationships and exchange ideas about how the two militaries could work together in the future.
The Essex Expeditionary Strike Group consists of Essex and Stethem which reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.