U.S. war vessel in Cebu for civic tour
A US missile destroyer is in Cebu for the next few days with more than 300 crew members, some of them Filipino-Americans.
The USS Russell (DDG 59), which is docked off the coast of Talisay City, arrived last Friday to undertake various civic projects.
“Our mission is to support the ‘America in 3D’ project of the US Embassy. We’ve also given some of the crew some ‘liberties’ to experience Filipino culture and strengthen our ties with the Filipinos,” said USS Russel navigator First Lt. Chris Gostel.
Gostel hosted a tour of Cebu journalists on board the vessel yesterday. Visitors were shown basic areas of the ship, including a sophisticated bridge where the navigation controls of the 9,000-ton destroyer are located.
Some of the American navy personnel have toured malls and casinos of Cebu since last Friday.
“America in 3D” is dubbed a “ Road Show in Diplomacy, Development, and Defense” and highlights American culture, values and society. The program was launched last March by the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
The road show across the Philippines includes cultural performances, community service projects, sports clinics, film screenings and exhibits.
Gostel said he got to enjoy some of the sights in Cebu and even “got lucky” at the Casino Filipino at the Waterfront Hotel. He said it was his first time in 20 years to be back in the Philippines.
Christian Uy, a Filipino-American cook, said he prepares Filipino dishes for the crew, a fact confirmed by First Lt. Suneal Chandran, assistant operations officer.
Chandran said he enjoyed eating pork and chicken adobo and longganisa (blood sausage), which has become a regular feature in their meals.
About 10 percent of the ship’s crew, including petty officers and enlisted men, are Filipino-Americans.
“They are either related to or married a Filipina. So we have strong ties with the Philippines,” Gostel told reporters.
While the vessel is geared towards missile defense, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and maritime warfare, Chandran said their four-day Cebu tour consists of civic projects.
These include building houses in the Gawad Kalinga, Habitat for Humanity project in Minglanilla town, basketball and baseball clinics for the youth and tours in malls.
Docked a few kilometers off Talisay City, the USS Russel is heavily guarded that even small fishing boats are prohibited from getting near the ship.
The ship is named after Rear Admiral John Russell Jr. who fought in the Spanish-American War in the Pacific. Its home base is in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Visitors were shown the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer’s weapons, including Harpoon surface-to-air missiles that can hit a target 80 miles (128 kilometers) away.
Gostel said their vertical missiles, one of their main weapons, can also hit targets hundreds of miles away.
He also talked about the ship’s automated firing weapon, the Close-in Weapon System (CIWS), which they dubbed its “last line of defense.”
Chandran declined to comment on whether the ship had nuclear weapons.
“It is our policy not to comment on nuclear weapons but generally we don’t carry nuclear weapons on destroyers and submarines,” he said.
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