BLACK SEA –
U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) departed Sarayburnu Pier, Istanbul and entered the Black Sea, Nov. 4.
While in Istanbul, Mount Whitney’s crew, as well as members of the embarked SIXTHFLT and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) staff, had the opportunity to enjoy Istanbul’s rich culture and history while interacting with local Turkish citizens through Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) tours.
One such tour was led by the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul and U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/SIXTHFLT Chaplain, Capt. Brian Weigelt. Those on the tour visited the Suleymaniye Mosque complex, getting a history of the buildings and complex from the Mosque’s Imam.
“Turkey has such a rich, faith-based history. It was truly a privilege to see that history at the Suleymaniye complex and through the eyes and words of the Imam,” said Weigelt. “Faith has a unique power to bring people of different backgrounds, geographies and experiences together, and our relationships with our Turkish allies are a testament to that fact.”
Mount Whitney returned the favor, hosting distinguished visitors for an evening reception on the ship’s main deck, Nov. 3. The reception featured keynote addresses from Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, SIXTHFLT and STRIKFORNATO, and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David M. Satterfield. Among distinguished visitors in attendance were Rear Admiral İbrahim Özdem Koçer,Turkish Navy Sea Area North Commander, and Istanbul Vice Governor Şevket Atlı.
In his remarks, Ambassador Satterfield highlighted the bonds that tie Turkey and the United States together.
“Turkey is an important state not only in its own right, but because of the nature of the circumstances which confront Turks, the United States, our NATO allies, Europe, the region, and beyond. We are committed to do all that we can to further that relationship,” said Satterfield. “The Mount Whitney’s presence here is a tangible, visible sign to all those who come to Istanbul of that partnership.”
After departing Istanbul, Mount Whitney proceeded north toward the Black Sea to operate alongside NATO allies and partners in the region, working together to ensure security and stability. During her transit, the ship demonstrated the strength of joint and multilateral forces by operating with aircraft from U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) in support of Operation Castle Forge.
Castle Forge provides a dynamic, partnership-focused training environment that raises the U.S. commitment to collective defense in the Black Sea region while enhancing interoperability alongside NATO allies. The USAFE-AFAFRICA-led operation demonstrates the joint force’s combined ability to respond in times of crisis with a flexible, reassuring presence.
Mount Whitney’s operations in the Black Sea demonstrate the U.S. and NATO’s commitment to the region. NATO allies and partners stand together to ensure a safe, stable and secure Black Sea, building partner capacity to improve effectiveness and interoperability.
Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy operates with a combined crew of Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners in the SIXTHFLT area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
STRIKFORNATO, headquartered in Oeiras, Portugal, is Supreme Allied Commander Europe's (SACEUR) premier, rapidly deployable and flexible, maritime power projection Headquarters, capable of planning and executing full spectrum joint maritime operations, primarily through the integration of U.S. naval and amphibious forces, in order to provide assurance, deterrence and collective defense for the Alliance.
SIXTHFLT, 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.