USS Mount Whitney Returns to Homeport after Busy Schedule
USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), returned to its homport in Gaeta, Italy, July 3, following a two-month deployment to participate in community relations events, military exercises and scheduled port visits.
During the deployment, Mount Whitney made port visits to Lisbon, Portugal; Ventspils, Latvia; and Kiel, Germany. The ship participated and played vital roles in exercises including Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), and a synthetic training exercise with embarked Striking and Support Forces NATO.
While in Lisbon, Portugal during its first port stop, Mount Whitney participated in community events and hosted a special celebration to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Striking and Support Forces NATO (SFN). The multinational coalition of SFN, including members from 11 countries embarked with Mount Whitney to participate in BALTOPS 2013.
BALTOPS is a multinational event to improve maritime security in the Baltic Sea through increased interoperability and cooperation.
“Baltops was a great opportunity to exercise our skill sets aboard Mount Whitney and to share this training opportunity with our friends and allies in the 6th Fleet,” said Lt. Kevin Leiva.
BALTOPS 2013 concluded in Kiel, Germany for ‘Kiel Week’ which is a nine-day sailing festival with 200-year history that draws more than 2,000 sail boats and 5,000 participants each year. The port visit included open tours and also gave the ship’s crew an opportunity for liberty to experience ‘Kiel Week’ during Mount Whitney’s four days in port.
“Kiel was a very interesting port to visit,” said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Samantha Banda. “I went to Hamburg and toured a chocolate factory and also tried different foods at the Kiel Week exhibits.”
Wrapping up the many exercises, celebrations and community relations events, Mount Whitney, as a command and control ship, hosted a synthetic exercise in its Joint Operations Center for SFN battle-staff. The U.S. Fleet Synthetic Training-Joint 2013/2 exercise led by the Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group certified the carrier’s ability to integrate into joint operations and allowed the SFN battle-staff, who were first time participants of the exercise, a synthetic scenario to strengthen their ability to integrate U.S. maritime forces into alliance operations.
“This exercise was a first for the Strike Force NATO Battle-staff and the United States Navy,” said Royal Marines Lt. Col. Bruce Foster, SFN training officer. “The multinational battle-staff strengthened its skills to integrate U.S. Naval Forces into a maritime operation throughout the exercise with the Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group.”
Following the conclusion of the training exercise aboard Mount Whitney, the SFN members were transported via helicopter to their headquarters in Lisbon by embarked MH-60 helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 28) Det. 1 and the ship headed across the Mediterranean towards its homeport.
Mount Whitney, homeported in Gaeta, Italy, is the U.S. 6th Fleet flagship and operates with a combined crew of U.S. Sailors and MSC civil service mariners. The civil service mariners perform navigation; deck engineering and supply service operations while military personnel aboard support communications, weapons systems and security.
Press Release, July 4, 2013; Image: US Navy