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YOKOSUKA, Japan - More than 6,000 local Yokosuka residents, friends, and family members waited in a line stretching over a mile to tour the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), during the 35th Friendship Day at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka Aug. 6.
“We are very pleased to serve as the open ship for Friendship Day,” said Cmdr. Walter Wrye, Lassen’s commanding officer. “It is an opportunity for local Japanese to see what we do and also for our Sailors to become more familiar with Japanese culture, bringing us closer together as a community.”
The tour started on the quarterdeck, as each visitor received the opportunity to pose for a photo with the officer of the deck and chain of command.
From there, guests proceeded to the foc’sle where Sailors of all specialty rates stationed themselves to demonstrate their expertise. Fire Controlman 2nd Class Robert Aninzo explained Lassen’s defensive capabilities, pointing out the MK 45 - 5-inch-gun and Close-In Weapons System. Seaman Jeremy Diggs of 1st Division walked visitors through anchoring procedures aboard the ship.
Damage Controlman Chief Mark Otton and Hull Technician 3rd Class John Villafania demonstrated damage control equipment and techniques as visitors took the opportunity to try on protective clothing.
Next visitors learned about Lassen’s small boat operations and the complexity involved in launching and recovering a rigid hull inflatable boat at Lassen’s boat deck. Guests also had the opportunity to look through the sights of the 25mm gun and got a close up look at the Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes.
Proceeding to the flight deck through the helicopter hangar, the visitors were welcomed by the visit, board, search, and seizure team, which was a popular photo attraction. The team was dressed in their full tactical gear, demonstrating the tools and skills they employ when conducting maritime interdiction operations. Also on the flight deck were several small caliber action team members, demonstrating crew-served weapons such as the 50-caliber and M-240 machine guns.
Boatswain Mate 1st Class Justin Stegall, Lassen’s flight deck officer and search and rescue (SAR) swimmer, was dressed out in his diving gear as he discussed rescue and helicopter flight operations.
Several crew members volunteering as tour guides were surprised at how many people attended the this year’s event and for many Sailors, such as Fire Controlman 2nd Class John Wong, this was their first Friendship Day..
“This is absolutely amazing,” said Wong, who has only been in Japan one week. “I am so glad to take part in an event that strengthens our friendship with Japan. Everyone is so nice here and it really helps me adapt to my new home.”
After the tour of the flight deck, visitors continued to interact with Sailors on the pier, where the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation committee set up a booth selling ship souvenirs.
The First Class Leadership Association (FLCA) and Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) hosted their own booth providing snacks and drinks. Lassen’s chief petty officers hosted a cookout, manning the grills while serving up hamburgers, hotdogs and cold drinks.
“Friendship Day is the perfect opportunity for us to show our appreciation to our host nation,” said Fire Controlman Senior Chief Jeffrey Mullins. “Local residents learn about what we do and our Sailors get to show off their talents.”