(ATTN: ADDS photo)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- The Navy launched annual cruise training on a smaller scale Wednesday amid the virus pandemic, which includes visits to Guam and Malaysia for the delivery of medical items to Korean War veterans and overseas Koreans, officials said.
The Navy Cruise Training Task Group, consisting of the 4,400-ton destroyer Kang Gam-chan and the 10,000-ton logistics support ship Soyang, set sail from the southern resort island of Jeju with 540 sailors aboard, including 147 naval cadets, on the day.
During the 72-day journey, sailing training will be held on high seas and in the country's territorial waters to help the sailors better adapt to maritime circumstances, according to the Navy.
In Guam, they will deliver face masks, hand sanitizers and other medical supplies to U.S. veterans who participated in the 1950-53 Korean War, as well as to Koreans residing there, to help them better cope with COVID-19.
The sailors will also visit Malaysia for joint events with the navy there, and provide masks and other items to Korean citizens in the Southeast Asian country, the Navy said.
This year's training was scaled back due to the new coronavirus. Last year, the task group visited 14 ports in 12 countries over 143 days.
Prior to their departure, all the members had been in isolation for two weeks and had negative COVID-19 test results, according to the Navy.
Separate rooms for potential patients were set up inside the vessels, and more medical staff joined the trip, according to the military.
It will minimize contact with individuals during their port visits and introduce online lectures to replace some of canceled outdoor activities, it added.
"Despite difficult situations due to COVID-19, we will successfully complete the training based on thorough quarantine measures," Kim Gyeong-cheol, who led the group, said.
First launched in 1954, the cruise training has been held on an annual basis.