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USS Mount Whitney returns to Gaeta
The Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) returned to Gaeta, Italy, Aug. 1, 2018, after five months at sea.
Mount Whitney departed Gaeta Feb. 27, 2018, to conduct naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
“It’s good to be back home after five months at sea,” said Capt. Robert Aguilar, commanding officer of Mount Whitney. “From the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, Baltic Sea, and Black Sea, the Mount Whitney has covered all corners of the European and West African area of responsibility and we are only half way through the year.”
During the underway, Mount Whitney played a critical role in three major multinational exercises including Obangame Express, Baltic Operations, and Sea Breeze.
Mount Whitney’s capabilities provided opportunities for the ship to host many distinguished visitors during these exercises, such as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, and Commander, European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.
“Over the last five months the Mount Whitney enabled vital diplomatic meeting between heads of state, military-to-military key leader engagements, and partnership building with strategic allies and partners,” said Aguilar.
Mount Whitney was able to embark an entire combined joint task force staff as well as the staffs of allied and partner nations. During exercise Sea Breeze 2018, more than 150 staff members from various countries made up the Sea Breeze maritime operations center aboard the ship.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the behind the scenes effort of the U.S. 6th Fleet, Task Force 65, and Task Force 63 staffs who coordinated with country teams and operations staff aboard the Mount Whitney,” said Aguilar. “I cannot be more proud of this crew and our success in support of Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO.”
Additionally the ship spent time in Rijeka, Croatia, as part of an extensive service life extension program which will extend its active service life to 2039. During that time Mount Whitney completed various engineering equipment assessments, topside preservation, and inspection and upkeep of various systems throughout the ship.
Mount Whitney was also able to make scheduled port visits in cities such as Lisbon, Portugual; Kiel, Germany; Odessa, Ukraine; and Piraeus, Greece. While underway, Mount Whitney completed four replenishments-at-sea, three vertical replenishments, 15 port calls, hosted more than two-thousand visitors, and sailed nearly 15,000 nautical miles.
More than 50 Sailors participated in three community relation events in Portugal, Ukraine, and Greece.\
“During our time in homeport, the crew of the Mount Whitney will be resting and reconnecting with our families and friends,” said Aguilar. “But equally important are the preparations that we will be making to continue our support of commander, U.S. 6th Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO during year-end exercises and staff embarks.”
Mount Whitney, forward-deployed to Gaeta, Italy, operates with a combined crew of U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command Civilian Mariners. It is one of only two seaborne Joint Command Platforms in the U.S. Navy, both of which are forward deployed.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.