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Monday, April 21, 2014

Navy commander touts Saipan’s potential as ‘relaxation port’

Commander Thomas J. Dixon, commanding officer of the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), presents Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Douglas Brennan with a plaque of appreciation during the Chamber-hosted welcoming reception last Saturday at Hard Rock Cafe in Garapan. (Clarissa V. David) Saipan comes “highly” recommended for a “tourist relaxation port visit” by the commanding officer of the USS McCampbell, which is currently on island for its inaugural visit.

Cmdr. Thomas J. Dixon said in an interview that he first visited the island in 2001 aboard USS Curtis D. Wilbur and had “a great and wonderful experience” that he wanted the USS McCampbell crew to share that experience as well.

Dixon said the USS McCampbell, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer with 305 officers and crew on board, were out at sea for 30 days that they were looking forward to a “nice break” on Saipan.

Eleven years since his first visit and the people on Saipan still have the same “warm hospitality” and the place is still as great as he remembers, said Dixon.

“We need to increase our frequency because it’s a great place to unwind and I recommend it highly to everyone. It’s a wonderful place. I’m enjoying myself, the crew are enjoying themselves. I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he told Saipan Tribune.

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce hosted a welcoming reception at the Hard Rock Café last Sept. 22 for the officers and crew of the USS McCampbell and the USS Cowpens, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser which has visited the island more than once.

Both U.S. Navy ships arrived Friday morning.

During Saturday’s event, Dixon presented Mayor Donald Flores with a ball cap, Chamber’s Armed Forces Committee chair David A. Wiseman with a commemorative coin, and Chamber president Douglas Brennan with a plaque of appreciation for being gracious hosts.

In return, Dixon received a plaque from Flores, Wiseman, and Port of Saipan manager Mary Ann Q. Lizama.

Dixon disclosed that the two Yokosuka, Japan-based vessels were together in a recent training exercise before heading out to Saipan.

“I had the opportunity to pick this port visit for us then the commanding officer of the USS Cowpens saw what a great place this is and he came in right behind us and he changed his port visit from Guam to Saipan,” he said.

Upon arrival, Dixon said they have been relaxing and having a good time by enjoying the beaches, doing snorkeling, and scuba diving, among others.

The commander shared that during their stay, they will be doing community service with a local high school and will be interacting with the residents through friendly sports games such as soccer, volleyball, softball, and baseball.

Dixon said that the USS McCampbell’s visit to Saipan is relevant since the ship’s namesake, Capt. David McCampbell, served in the Pacific during World War II.

“It’s very appropriate for the ship to come visit one of the islands that he defended and protected over time,” he added.

USS McCampbell is scheduled to depart on Tuesday.

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