USS Essex (LHD 2) sets anchor off the coast of Phuket after arriving for a port visit, Jan. 24. (U.S. Navy/MC2 William Phillips)

PHUKET, Thailand - The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Phuket for a port visit, Jan. 24.

After almost five weeks at sea, the port visit is a chance for Sailors and Marines to relax and enjoy Thailand's culture, cuisine and tropical beaches while fostering relationships between the two nations.

"Our Sailors and Marines have been working tirelessly throughout the deployment, and this port visit gives them a chance to relax and strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and Thailand through firsthand cultural experiences and exchanges," said Capt. Brian Mutty, commanding officer of USS Essex. "We all understand that we are here to make an impression but also to enjoy our time in Phuket experiencing a different culture than what most of us are used to.”

The Sailors and Marines of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) will strengthen ties while hosting members of the Royal Thai Navy during a ship tour aboard Essex. The Royal Thai Navy sailors will visit the ship’s flight deck, well deck, bridge and the medical department to learn how Essex operates.

Essex and the 13th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to support regional stability, reassure partners and allies and maintain a presence postured to respond to any crisis ranging from humanitarian assistance to contingency operations.

Seaman Noah McCrimmion stands watch USS Essex (LHD 2) while anchoring off the coast of Phuket. (U.S. Navy/MC2 William Phillips)