GULF OF THAILAND (Feb. 27, 2011) Royal Cambodian Navy Cmdr. In Sokhemra points out a course on the chart table during a ship tour aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson)

USS ESSEX, At sea - The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex embarked 60 officers of the Royal Cambodian Navy (RCN) Feb. 27-28 to participate in shipboard operations training as part of Cambodia Maritime Exercise 2011.

The training was designed to support the exercise’s goals of enhancing U.S. and Cambodian military interoperability. Throughout the visit, Essex Sailors conducted training on shipboard systems and equipment, damage control and engineering.

“It was an honor to have the opportunity to host our Cambodian counterparts,” said Capt. Dave Fluker, Essex commanding officer. “Not only was it a chance for us to learn a little bit more about how each other operates, but it was also a chance to help build important relationships between Sailors of both our navies. I hope exchanges like this will continue to have a positive impact on our ability to work with the Kingdom of Cambodia.”

Throughout their stay, the officers had numerous opportunities to observe how U.S. Sailors train. They also participated in their own damage control fire drill, where they used Essex shipboard equipment and procedures to fight a simulated fire in the ship’s hangar bay. They adapted quickly, employing first responders, a rapid response team and a hose team that employed repair locker equipment, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Myers, Essex training officer.

“They did very well,” he said. “They asked a lot of questions and were very eager to learn about our damage control methods, and DC3 Acosta did a great job with presenting the damage control training material.”

RCN Capt. Pich Try expressed his satisfaction with the training and said it was extremely effective in accomplishing its goals.

“Training together is very important,” he said. “It is essential to know how to do damage control, and we can take what we learned today back to the many other Sailors who did not have the opportunity to attend this course.”

RCN Sailors also had a chance to see the ship’s bridge, well deck, main machinery room, medical ward and flight deck, where they observed helicopter flight operations.

“I was really surprised to see a lot of equipment and material that I have never seen before,” said Try. “I was very impressed with the inside of the helicopters.”

While familiarization and training on shipboard equipment was an essential part of the visit, the relationships forged between the Sailors of both countries was equally important, said RCN Cmdr. Im Sokhemra.

“On behalf of the Cambodian navy, I can say that we look forward to developing a tighter relationship between the U.S. and Cambodia,” said Sokhemra. “This was the second time I've been on board and everything has always gone very smooth. Everything the Sailors here share with us is very good. I hope to have many future exchanges between our navies.”

Sailors of both countries won’t have to wait long for those exchanges, as a number of projects are scheduled throughout the week-long exercise, including multiple English exchanges, a petty officer leadership course, two community service projects, and a sports day.