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By Tammy Anderson

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 29) - Despite the language barrier, U.S. and Russian navy crews on Guam yesterday were able to plan how they would land their aircraft on each other's vessels, exchange supplies and conduct other procedures in the event of a joint response to a natural disaster.

More than 1,300 crewmembers from two U.S. Navy cruisers and four Russian ships are on island this week to practice joint relief exercises. The scenario for today is the days after a strong typhoon.

With the logistics settled, the groups will head out to sea for a day of maneuvers, said Capt. John "Buz" Sorce, commanding officer of the USS Cowpens.

The Russian navy asked their U.S. counterparts to hold the joint exercises, and the U.S. chose Guam as the venue, Sorce said. The exercises will help U.S. and Russian sailors respond together to any area of the world in need, he said.

Local Navy spokesman Lieutenant Donnell Evans said the U.S. Navy has responded to major natural disasters in recent years, including the tsunami that struck numerous Southeast Asian countries in 2004, Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast last year, and the landslides in the southern Philippine province of Leyte in February.

Earlier this week, Russian and U.S. Navy officials took a break from the exercises to pay tribute to troops who died during World War II in a wreath-laying ceremony Tuesday.

The tribute by the former Cold War enemies was something that moved Coast Guard Captain William Marhoffer.

Marhoffer became an active duty serviceman with the Coast Guard in 1976, around the height of the Cold War.

The commander of Coast Guard Sector Guam said he never imagined 30 years ago that he would be saluting Russian military officers, much less hearing the Russian band that played "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the Russian national anthem during the wreath-laying ceremony at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park Asan Bay Overlook.

The tribute, the joint humanitarian exercises and even the gesture of playing the other country's national anthem are significant examples of changing times.

"That is a sign of some progress in our world," Marhoffer said.

March 30, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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