Thousands of sailors streamed off warships Tuesday while tons of food was loaded back on as Pearl Harbor continues to fill up ahead of big Rim of the Pacific war games.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, beaches and many other tourist attractions will be plenty busy for the harbor phase through July 8.
Twenty-six nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the world’s largest international maritime exercise today through Aug. 2.
The biennial RIMPAC is held primarily in Hawaii but also has elements in Southern California.
The San Diego destroyer USS Sterett, with 340 sailors, was tied up alongside the Pearl Harbor-based USS Chung-Hoon. Heavy power lines snaked across the Chung-Hoon to connect to the Sterett, with a third ship expected to berth next to the Sterett.
That means a lot of saluting as sailors from the outboard ships leave one ship and cross over to another to reach shore.
Some ships arrived last week, 12 came in Monday and 14 arrived Tuesday, the Navy said.
The 1,092-foot aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson pulled in Tuesday and started disgorging over 5,000 sailors for leave at 1:30 p.m.
Monica Salter, vice president of corporate communications for Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, said that group’s hotels “are very full due to the RIMPAC exercise.”
“Outrigger Hotels and Resorts has been a proud supporter of RIMPAC participants since its inception in 1971 and we welcome them back this year with aloha and gratitude for their service,” Salter said.
Outrigger’s Waikiki properties are hosting RIMPAC participants from the United States as well as Australia, Japan and France, she said.
Hooters restaurant at Aloha Tower Marketplace said coming days are expected to bring in a lot of RIMPAC participants.
“So far, we haven’t seen too many of them,” said Mary Malvonado, a manager. “We’ve had some last night here and there. I think they are starting to trickle in, (but) we’re expecting it to be busy, that’s for sure.”
Exploring the island
Sarah Brown, 22, a corpsman on the Sterett from “Cave City, Ark., home of the world’s sweetest watermelons,” said in her first RIMPAC she’s “really excited to see everything and experience all that it has to offer.”
Most of the ship’s crew is working half-days while in port and then is free at about 2 p.m., she said.
As for plans, Brown said, “I definitely heard about the luaus. I’m excited to go do those. Maybe some cliff diving — I like adventurous stuff like that. Eat some good food, too.”
Brown and some other sailors said they plan to use Uber to get around — even if it means surge pricing.
“That’s all I’ve used in the States, so I’m most familiar with Uber,” she said. Although Brown said she heard surge pricing “gets bad,” she said it’s the price she’ll have to pay.
“We’re not going to stay here (at Pearl Harbor), and we’re not going to walk, so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” she said.
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Angie Morgan, 29, from New Jersey, said she plans to hit the beach.
“The last time we were here, we didn’t have enough time, so probably the beach. (And) a lot of shopping. I have two kids, so that’s definitely on my agenda,” she said.
Matthew Rodgers, 34, a yeoman from San Francisco on the Sterett, said, “In the past we’ve worked with other nations, but I think collectively with all the nations that are gathered here, it’s a once-in-a-career experience. I’ve been in the Navy 14 years, and this is the first (RIMPAC) I’ve been on.”
Ensign Yuki Hori, on Japan’s helicopter destroyer Ise, said in limited English, “We are Japan. We want to do the best for all countries in the exercise.”
Let the games begin
This year’s exercise includes forces from Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
The harbor phase includes safety briefings, receptions on the fantails of ships, intramural sports competition between countries, and familiarizations for helicopter pilots with the ships they’ll be landing on.
The ships are expected to start getting underway July 9 for the force integration phase, including operating together in different task groups.
An emphasis on missile improvements to sink ships will be one hallmark of RIMPAC with the firing of a long-range anti-ship missile from an Air Force B-1 bomber against a target ship on July 12, the Navy said.
A surface-to-ship missile will be fired by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and the U.S. Army, also on July 12, will target the decommissioned USS Racine from shore with a Naval Strike Missile launched from a truck.
Approximately 1,200 Marines will participate in infantry, air and artillery attacks at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island and beach landings at Kaneohe Bay.
Additionally, a “humanitarian assistance and disaster relief” exercise will respond to a simulated earthquake and tsunami scenario July 9-17.
From July 25 on will be the “free play” phase, “which is a little bit less scripted for the ships and allows the leadership on board to make executive decisions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Julie Holland.
The ships start pulling back into Pearl Harbor on Aug. 1.