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This is Blue Ridge’s first visit to Brunei since 2002.
“The United States and Brunei’s relationship has entered its fourth decade in a position of strength and we continue to build our partnership through joint military exercises and engagements such as the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) and the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT),” said the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei, Her Excellency Caryn McClelland. “The USS Blue Ridge visit to Brunei today is another testament to our exemplary cooperation based on mutual desire for the peace, security, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region,” she added.
During the visit, which complements the many bilateral military cooperation activities conducted by the U.S. Navy and Brunei, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet, conducted talks with Ambassador McClelland, the Minister of Defence II, The Honorable Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Retired) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, the Commander of Royal Brunei Armed Forces, Major General Dato Paduka Seri Haji Muhammad Haszaimi bin Bol Hassan, and other key-leaders from Brunei.
“It was an absolute honor to visit Brunei Darussalam this past week,” said Thomas. “U.S.-Brunei defense cooperation has never been stronger. The U.S. Navy is grateful to have the opportunity to strengthen our friendship with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and our common understanding that a safe and secure maritime environment fosters economic prosperity and regional security for all nations.”
The U.S. Navy shares a deep history with Brunei. USS Constitution made the first visit to the country in 1845. Five years later, the U.S. and Brunei formalized relations with the signing of the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation.
During a welcome ceremony held aboard Blue Ridge, the ship’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Dale Gregory, expressed his gratitude and desire to continue building upon the partnership. He also spoke to the historic tie between Brunei and the Blue Ridge, when his Majesty the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah made his first visit to a U.S. Navy ship in October 1985.
“The Blue Ridge and Brunei have a rich history reaching all the way back to 1985,” said Gregory. “It brings great pleasure to be welcomed by this great nation and continue building upon and already fortified partnership, our shared vision on the international rules-based order, and for peace and stability for a free and open Indo Pacific”.
While in Brunei, Muslim Sailors had the opportunity to visit and pray at a local mosque for Friday prayers.
“It was a great and exciting experience to be afforded the opportunity to pray at the local Mosque,” said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Faisal Ebadi. “The Mosque was amazing and the people were very welcoming and friendly. They even gave us a tour, explaining the history of the Mosque and Islam in Brunei”.
Blue Ridge Sailors also took part in a sports day with members of the Royal Brunei Navy, strengthening the bond between our service members and giving them a chance to interact.
“It was really cool because it is something we can do coed while respecting their cultural and religious practices,” said Damage Controlman 1st Class Brandon Carrick. “Overall, the event was really fun because it showed sportsmanship and appreciating other cultures.”
Blue Ridge, with the embarked Seventh Fleet staff, is currently on a scheduled patrol in the Indo-Pacific operating with allies and partners in support of preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific.