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USS Leyte Gulf Conducts Historic Mission with Close Ally
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile Cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and U.K. fleet oiler RFA Wave Knight (A389) successfully executed the northernmost underway replenishment (UNREP) conducted by a U.S. Navy warship since the 1980s, Aug. 25, 2017.
This success culminates a century’s worth of progress and ingenuity; in May 1917, the U.S. fleet oiler USS Maumee (AO-2), positioned 300 miles south of Greenland, completed what is considered the first underway replenishment . Leyte Gulf’s crew find themselves nearly 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, accomplishing the same logistics operations that allow the U.S. Navy to conduct sustained operations at sea around the globe. Receiving not only shipboard fuel but aviation fuel for Leyte Gulf’s two embarked MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters, attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 60, the crew proved, along with the United States’ allies from the United Kingdom, the capability to continue operations unhindered in the North Atlantic.
Leyte Gulf departed its homeport in Norfolk, March 27, 2017, for a regularly scheduled deployment that began with the mission to conduct maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. Since the deployment began, the ship has amassed more than 30 days of operations above the Arctic Circle, including a previous UNREP above the Arctic Circle in May with the German fleet oiler FGS Bonn during EASTLANT 17, an anti-submarine warfare exercise conducted with Germany and Norway.
While operating this far north has its challenges, it also presents unique opportunities that most U.S. Navy surface warriors will never get, including the opportunity to enter into the “Order of the Blue Nose.” Leaving Norfolk with only five Blue Nose sailors, Leyte Gulf nears the end of its deployment having inducted more than 400 sailors into the “Realm of the Arctic Circle.” Only those that have crossed the Arctic Circle can say, with pride, that they are members of the Order of the Blue Nose. The Blue Nose ceremony is a long-standing tradition in the U.S. Navy, and similar celebrations have welcomed mariners across the world into this unique society for centuries.
Ship handling operations such as the UNREP are important as they strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and our allies as we work toward mutual goals of peace and stability in the region. Being able to conduct these evolutions with our allies and partners demonstrates the importance of these relationships in order for U.S. Naval forces to be able to conduct sustained operations in an area as large as U.S. 6th Fleet.
“The importance of missions such as these demonstrates that our dedication to operating with our allies is more prevalent now than ever,” said Capt. Daniel Sunvold, commanding officer of Leyte Gulf. “ Facing the dynamic world in which we operate, our Sailors find assurance in the fact that we can continue to push the bounds of our assumptions and demonstrate the ability to operate unimpeded, despite the natural challenges the climate and vast area of operations present.”
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, security, and stability in Europe and Africa.