SOUTH CHINA SEA – The USS John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) is scheduled to begin a routine port visit to the Philippines May 20 in Subic Bay and May 21 in Manila.
JCSSG consists of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), and guided- missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).
“We are excited to visit Manila and Subic Bay. This is a great opportunity for our Sailors to see the sights and experience the warm hospitality of the Filipino people,” said Rear Adm. Marcus Hitchcock, commander, JCSSG. “Many of our Sailors look forward to reconnecting with family and friends in the local area.”
The strike group is the centerpiece of the Great Green Fleet (GGF) and uses energy conservation measures and operational procedures in the course of its normal task, to increase energy efficiency. JCSSG has been underway as part of the GGF since January 2016 and participated in Exercise Balikatan 2016 in April.
While in the Philippines, strike group personnel will conduct cultural exchanges with the people of the Philippines by participating in community relations projects (COMRELS). Sailors plan to visit local elementary schools, cemeteries, memorials, and a medical center.
In addition to COMRELS, Sailors will take part in morale, welfare, and recreation tours to experience the island and the practices of the Filipino people. Sailors from Chung-Hoon and William P. Lawrence will also participate in friendly sporting matches with locals.
Approximately 8,500 Sailors make up the strike group, of which at least 238 are of Filipino heritage. The Commanding Officer of USS Stockdale (DDG 106), Cmdr. Raphael Castillejo is among those Sailors.
Castillejo was born at Makati Medical Center and moved to the United States as a boy. He has served in the Navy for 23 years and is looking forward to returning to his hometown for this port visit. He plans to lead a wreath-laying ceremony at a local cemetery to remember that lost liberating the Philippines during World War II.
Logistics Specialist First Class Don Salamero, a USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) crew member, was born and raised in Daet Camarines Norte, in the Bicol region of the Philippines.
Salamero enlisted in the Navy 17 years ago to explore and learn about different cultures, and he is excited to return to the Philippines for this port visit.
JCSSG is on patrol in 7th Fleet providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. – By Ensign Emily Wilkin, John C. Stennis Strike Group Public Affairs/ re-edit by Jason E.