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US ship sets sail for NZ for celebration

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/11/2016

<span style="font-size:13px;">The USS Sampson has set off from Hawaii for NZ as preparations for the 75th anniversary of the NZ Navy this month gear up.</span> © Getty Images The USS Sampson has set off from Hawaii for NZ as preparations for the 75th anniversary of the NZ Navy this month gear up. The USS Sampson is on its way to New Zealand for the Royal New Zealand Navy International Naval Review in Auckland later this month.

The destroyer departed from Hawaii on November 3 (US time) to participate in 75th anniversary celebrations of the New Zealand Navy, where 22 countries will be represented.

It will become the first US Navy ship to visit New Zealand in more than 30 years, the break sparked by New Zealand's anti-nuclear laws.

While in Auckland from November 17 to 22, the crew of the Sampson will take part in a multi-ship pass-in-review, march in a 1000-strong international parade, and compete in sports tournaments with the crews of the other ships.

Though operating in the Western Pacific, an area historically controlled by the 7th Fleet commander, Sampson will remain assigned to the 3rd Fleet commander.

This is to increase the involvement of the San Diego-based 3rd Fleet beyond the international dateline in the western Pacific, the US says.

It's an example of the US Navy returning to how it historically employed numbered fleet commanders across the entire Pacific Ocean when 3rd Fleet was first established more than 70 years ago, says Admiral Scott H Swift, commander of US Pacific Fleet.

The Washington state-based Sampson has spent two weeks in the Hawaii operating area completing pre-deployment training.

The crew are excited and honoured to represent the US, says the Sampson's skipper, Commander Tim LaBenz.

Many sailors on board Sampson have already participated in RIMPAC exercises, with their New Zealand counterparts.

On October 1, 1941, King George VI approved the designation "Royal New Zealand Navy" for the regular element of the New Zealand naval forces.

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