Story and photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Josh Huebner.
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff Sailors were welcomed aboard to share the holiday with shipmates and family during a special Christmas dinner in the crew's galley Dec. 25 while the ship was in Yokosuka, Japan.
While most Sailors enjoyed a day off or leave for Christmas, a portion of the ship's crew stayed aboard to maintain the flagship's mission readiness.
For 15 of those Sailors, the mission was to prepare a Christmas dinner for their shipmates standing duty and those who couldn't make it home.
"We started preparing and cooking at 7 a.m.," said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Corey Montgomery, wardroom supervisor. "A lot of the people coming to the dinner are here on duty so we're trying to make their Christmas a little better by giving them a great meal, to make them feel at home."
In the crew's galley, Culinary Specialist 1st Class Mario Urbina, the watch captain, kept his team motivated while helping them prepare the spread.
"Everyone really puts in the extra effort during special meals like this. I've been in the Navy nine years, and I've worked on Christmas six times, so I know how much a good meal can mean to someone when they're working the holidays," said Urbina.
Christmas lights and decorations lit up the mess decks as Sailors brought family members aboard to share the meal and holiday spirit.
Yeoman 3rd Class Donta Freeman, an administrative assistant, brought his friend Hospitalman Apprentice Sara Clark, who is stationed at Naval Hospital Yokosuka, aboard to join him for dinner.
"It's really cool they did this for us. It's nice being able to share Christmas with friends and have a big dinner," said Freeman.
The chefs cooked a spread that included turkey, glazed ham, carved roast rib-eye, shrimp and pies.
"This is something we're proud to do, it's standard," said Chief Culinary Specialist Egbert San Pedro, "It's the traditional family dinner and the Sailors really like having a special meal while they're serving on Christmas."
Blue Ridge has won the Capt. Edward F. Ney Award for food service excellence three times in its history and is competing to win the award for the second time in a row after winning the award in 2010.
Blue Ridge beat out 178 ships in the U.S. Pacific Fleet to become a finalist for this year's competition.
Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Guillermo Weillard carves a Christmas turkey during dinner service aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). Blue Ridge and embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff Sailors and family members enjoyed Christmas dinner aboard the flagship.
Culinary Specialist Seaman Michael Angelo Leobo eats Christmas dinner with his friend, Information Systems Technician Seaman Apprentice Amy Jones, aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). Blue Ridge and embarked U.S. 7th Fleet staff Sailors and family members enjoyed Christmas dinner aboard the flagship.
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