When the United States Navy’s Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group announced its port call in Manila, loved ones of its crew of the aircraft carrier immediately sent reminders on their visit to the Philippine capital.
“Stretch your legs ashore, guys, but be safe,” says a sailor’s father on Facebook, responding to a cover image titled “Manila 2018” posted on the page of the USS Ronald Reagan.
Another apparent family friend responded, “Road trip to Olongapo?”
But the suggestion was quickly dismissed by the sailor’s dad. “Joe, I told my son to stay on the Subic Bay side.”
Mothers of the crew also posted their hopes for their sons while in Manila.
Other family members also reminded their boys and girls aboard the Reagan to call home.
One parent already residing in the Philippines plans to fly to Manila to be reconciled with her son.
“Coming to see you, son! Flying from another island. I am so glad you are here. Welcome home and welcome to the Philippines USS RR CVN76,” she said.
Why docking in Manila is special for the supercarrier
Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, commander of Task Force 70, admitted that a stop in Manila is “one of the favorite port visits for sailors in the Pacific.”
“Thanks to the beauty and welcoming people of the Philippines,” Dalton said in a statement.
The US Pacific Fleet gave an overview of the plan for crew members of the strike group while in Manila.
Sailors will have a chance to participate in community service projects and events allowing them to volunteer at local schools and hospitals. They can also join “morale welfare and recreation” tours that will take crew members to forests and natural springs. Here, sailors can enjoy diving and snorkeling.
“This scheduled patrol is part of our training and operations that we routinely conduct, just as we have for the past seven decades,” Dalton said.
The Philippines is an old defense treaty ally of the US, its former colonizer. The two countries have maintained close ties through joint naval exercises, training and exchange of knowledge.
In 2014, the alliance was bolstered with the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between Manila and Washington, allowing a rotating presence of American troops in designated military bases in the Philippines.
The close cooperation continues despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-American rhetoric in recent years and uncertainties over US President Donald Trump’s commitments to the region as China tightens its grip on power by militarizing the South China Sea.
For Dalton, however, the operations of the USS Ronald Reagan and visit to Manila signals the Pacific power’s “continued presence in the Indo-Pacific.” Such presence, he said, “promotes security and stability that has driven the peace and prosperity that benefits all regional countries.”
The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) arrived in Manila for the regularly scheduled port visit on Tuesday, June 26.