US Navy destroyer visits Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga

U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance became the first U.S. warship to dock in the Kingdom of Tonga as it completed a four-day port call in the northern port of the kingdom, May 10.

In 2011, USS Cleveland (LPD 7) anchored offshore, as did USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) in 2013.

During their time in port, members of the crew attended several meetings with Tongan Defense leaders, conducted community relations projects, and held a reception on their flight deck for local dignitaries.

Spruance’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Manuel Hernandez took an opportunity to visit Tonga’s Chief of Defense Staff Brig. Gen. Lord Fielakepa, and Navy Component Commander Cmdr. Heiss Fonohema.

During their time in Tonga, Spruance Sailors also participated in several community relations (COMREL) projects, including assisting with a modernization project at a local hospital and delivering bicycles and various sports equipment to nearby schools, while also working with the local Peace Corps chapter.

During the evening of May 10, Spruance’s crew hosted a reception on board for distinguished visitors from Tonga, including the guest of honor Deputy Prime Minister Honorable Siaosi Sovaleni, the U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Doug Sonnek, members of the royal family, diplomatic corps, and representatives of several foreign embassies.

Following the port visit, Spruance will conduct Oceania Maritime Security Initiative missions. OMSI missions are a Department of Defense initiative, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, to provide enforcement against illegal fishing and poaching in economic exclusive zones (EEZ). Many of the EEZs are in waters with close proximity to the Pacific partner nations of the U.S.

Along with guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Momsen (DDG 92), Spruance is part of the Pacific Surface Action Group deployment to the Western Pacific. Spruance departed San Diego, April 19.