SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia --
More than 90 Sailors and Marines assigned to USS Essex (LHD 2) played a friendly soccer tournament with Cambodian army cadets at Ream Naval Base, Sihanoukville, Kingdom of Cambodia, Nov. 27.
The friendly match concluded with a social gathering and barbeque that allowed Sailors and Marines the opportunity to make new friends and learn about Cambodian culture.
“I am very happy to participate in this event with America,” said Royal Cambodian army cadet Sreang Theara. “There was good competition and teamwork today, the American military are so nice, and I hope we can work closer together in the future.”
Essex Sailors and Marines fielded three teams and played a mini-tournament with the Cambodians who jumped to an early lead in the first game.
“I was impressed by the skill level of the cadets,” said Ensign Russell Hill, who scored the lone goal for Navy in the first game. “We didn’t mind losing to such great guys, especially since they were so accommodating and welcoming to us.”
In the end the Cambodians swept the tournament which attracted close to 100 spectators.
After the tournament completed, the Cambodian navy and army fired up the grills for a barbeque hosting the hungry athletes and spectators. The barbeque consisted of whole crabs, gigantic shrimp, beef and vegetables topped with lime juice and Cambodian seasonings.
The relaxed atmosphere at the meal gave Sailors and Marines the opportunity to get to know their Cambodian hosts.
“The food was great,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class (AW/SW) Marcelo Valarezo, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Essex. “I enjoyed being able to share good food and drink with our new Cambodian friends. It was fun to learn about each other’s languages and cultures.”
Sailors that attended and participated in the soccer tournament departed the naval base with an interest in the Cambodian culture and history and an experience that will serve as a great "sea story" for years to come.
Essex’s visit to Cambodia marks the first time an amphibious assault ship has visited the country and marks the second U.S. Navy ship visit in 2007. USS Gary’s (FFG 51) visit in February was the first U.S. ship to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia in more than 30 years.
Operating in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, the U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with approximately 50 ships, 120 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any given time.