DA NANG, Vietnam - The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) arrived pier side in Da Nang, Vietnam on Aug. 10, marking the first time the ship has visited Vietnam.

The visit, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the two countries, also begins the first-ever military training exchanges between the U.S. and Vietnamese Peoples Navy.

“This is a historic event for USS John S. McCain,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Kim, John S. McCain’s commanding officer. “For this ship and her crew, to be able to make our first visit to Vietnam, especially during this landmark event is truly an honor,” he added.

John S. McCain Sailors will interact with their Vietnamese counterparts during shipboard damage control and Search and Rescue demonstrations, as well as exchanges in the culinary arts. Off the ship, U.S. and Vietnamese Sailors will participate in a friendly volleyball game and bar-b-que. Throughout the visit, Sailors will also conduct scheduled community outreach projects at a local school and orphanage.

Da Nang will also give the visitors a chance to learn about the country during liberty time and hosted tours of the city. Master-at-Arms 1st Class (SW/EXW) Jonathon Baker, from Columbia, S.C., whose father served in the Vietnam War, says that while the visit offers an opportunity to experience a unique culture, it’s also a chance for U.S. Sailors to play an important role in enhancing U.S.-Vietnam relations. He also encourages the junior Sailors to embrace the time they have here.

“I really do encourage everyone to get out and see the country, and learn something about Vietnam,” said Baker. “Many of these junior Sailors’ parents and grandparents served in Vietnam. Now there are normalized relations between the U.S and Vietnam. We should take full advantage of being a part of this historic process.”

The Navy conducted two port visits to Vietnam in 2008. In 2009, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hosted the first-ever fly out of visitors from Vietnam to a U.S. aircraft carrier, and the 7th Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), commanded by Cmdr. H.B. Le, a Vietnamese- American, visited in November 2009. The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) also visited Vietnam in May 2010 as part of a large-scale humanitarian Assistance mission.

John S. McCain is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 and patrols the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility. Operating in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, the U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with approximately 50 ships, 120 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any given time.