Will it be Hong Kong? Or Australia?
For some 4,000 Marines and sailors aboard three amphibious ships on the homestretch of an overseas deployment, liberty this holiday weekend means they will get to spend their days, nights and dollars in Hong Kong and Australia.
The crew of amphibious transport dock Green Bay is making its maiden operational deployment, and embarked Marines with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit get to stretch their legs in Darwin, Australia. Darwin sits in the continent’s north-central coast. It’s a tropical city on the Timor Sea and the capital of the Northern Territory, a sparse region most known for Uluru, or Ayers Rock, the famous red-sandstone mound that rises above the outback. The city of 127,000 is familiar with sailors and Marines, as it recently hosted service members during joint training exercises this summer.
Two other San Diego-based ships with their amphibious ready group – amphibious assault ship Boxer and dock landing ship Comstock – are hanging for a few days in Hong Kong, some 2,600 miles northwest of Darwin. Hong Kong is notable for its super-sized, neon-lit, elbow-crowding urbaneness. It’s part of China, but the harbor-front city remains quite the hub of capitalism, so there will be lots of the usual shopping and partying, and likely some volunteerism with community relations projects that units organize when visiting liberty ports.
The Boxer ARG/MEU force left the 5th Fleet region in mid-August and is making the trek back to their California bases – but not before a little time to get on dry land and take a short break. “Our sailors and Marines are looking forward to enjoying the richness and diversity of the Chinese culture,” Boxer’s skipper, Capt. Kevin Flanagan, said in a news release.
And what about “down under” in Australia? Green Bay, which along with Comstock last month visited the popular city of Phuket, Thailand, pulled into Darwin’s harbor on Sept. 2. “The crew has been asking to visit Australia ever since we sailed on deployment, and it’s great that we get to spend a few days here experiencing the local culture,” Green Bay’s skipper, Cmdr. Kevin Meyers, said in a release.