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Rumsfeld Visits USS Blue Ridge in Japan

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Dille, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

YOKOSUKA, Japan, Nov. 15, 2003 – Stressing the importance of its service in the Pacific region, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited the crew of the USS Blue Ridge here today.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld greets Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Stowe, of Fayette, Ala., and Petty Officer 3rd Class Shasha Wilson, of Houston, in the Joint Information Processing Center while touring the 7th Fleet command and control ship USS Blue Ridge in Yokosuka, Japan, Nov. 15. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Winston C. Pitman, USN

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The Blue Ridge is the command and control ship for the Navy's 7th Fleet.

Aboard the ship, Rumsfeld had lunch with Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet sailors and Marines, airmen from nearby Yokota Air Base, and soldiers from Camp Zama. In brief remarks, the secretary commented on the military's role in the Pacific region.

"I'm traveling here because this region of the world is so enormously important," Rumsfeld said. "The events that are taking place across the globe are important, to be sure, … and the folks that are serving here are very deeply involved in the global war on terrorism, just as those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and the horn of Africa."

Rumsfeld commended the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for their service and sacrifice for America's security, and reassured them of continued progress toward the permanent freedom of the Iraqi people.

"For 30 years, the people have been repressed," said Rumsfeld. "They've had an economic system that represented almost a Stalinist system, where everything is controlled (and) people are denied opportunities. They had a political system where people were not free. And suddenly today they're free."

The secretary said events transpiring in the region indicate the role of the Navy in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, and the responsibilities of its personnel likely will grow in the coming decades.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Frazier, from Hartselle, Ala., a quartermaster who is the Blue Ridge junior sailor of the quarter, sat with the Rumsfeld during the lunch. "I'm a great admirer of Secretary Rumsfeld," said Frasier. "I have been since the Bush administration got elected. His whole life impressed me, especially that he was in the Navy. Of course, I was kind of nervous, but excited."

Seaman Shawntavia Keaton, a communications cryptologic technician from St. Petersburg, Fla., also sat with Rumsfeld at lunch. "He asked where each of us was from. It was more of a personal, not so much political, discussion," Keaton said. "He was interested about what it's like being stationed here (and about) our relationship with the Japanese."

After lunch with the crew, Rumsfeld toured parts of the ship, including damage- control central and the joint information processing center, a vital communication conduit for the ship.

After the visit, Rumsfeld continued his tour of the Asia-Pacific region headed for Okinawa and South Korea.

(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Dille is a journalist assigned to 7th Fleet public affairs.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signs an autograph for the Sailor of the Quarter, Petty Officer 1st Class Sherwin Penaranda during a visit to the USS Blue Ridge in Yokosuka, Japan, Nov. 15. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Winston C. Pitman, USN   
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