NEWS | May 1, 2019

CTF 65 Maintains High Operational Tempo

By Lt. j.g Teresa C. Meadows

Rota, Spain— In Spring 2018, commander, Task Force (CTF) 65 was directed to shift home port from Naples, Italy, to Rota, Spain, to co-locate with the four forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class destroyers based there. The staff of twenty personnel officially completed their seven-month homeport transition on March 1, 2019.
The relocation of the full-time headquarters required a great deal of coordination and time; however, the staff maintained a high-operational tempo from the start of 2019 through the end of April. To maintain the pace of operations during the transition, the staff adopted a phased approach to transferring critical functionalities from Naples to Rota. During the move, the staff retained its ability to plan, coordinate, and execute 47 port visits, eight maritime interoperability exercises with six different countries, six large-scale multinational exercises, six Black Sea transits, three planning conferences, carrier strike group (CSG) operations with a French CSG, and a certifying event exercising tactical control (TACON) over 11 ships and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter underway.
“[The task force’s] relocation enables the staff to conduct hands-on operational planning with the ships and enhances the productivity of both CTF 65 and [Destroyer Squadron (DESRON)] 60 staffs,” said Cmdr. Ben Simones, CTF 65’s liaison officer to the U.S. 6th Fleet staff. “But, as we have seen over the past couple of years, operational requirements on both the staffs and the ships continue to increase, necessitating discipline on our part to enforce safe operations and procedural compliance in meeting those requirements.”
CTF 65 planned and executed five large-scale exercises with regional allies and partners in both the African and European theaters. These exercises included Cutlass Express, FANAL, Obangame Express, Joint Warrior, and Formidable Shield. Members of the CTF 65 staff embarked on U.S. ships to assess the execution of the exercises. They organized 47 port visits in 18 different countries throughout Europe and Africa in coordination with U.S. 6th Fleet, the U.S. embassy teams, port operations, and the ships.
Eight maritime interoperability exercises were planned and executed by CTF 65 with Algeria, Bulgaria, Finland, Georgia, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Turkey. Multinational training improves combined capabilities and operational effectiveness, thereby enhancing regional maritime stability, combined readiness, and naval capability with the U.S. and its allies and partners.
Throughout the course of the first four months of 2019, CTF 65 exercised TACON over 11 Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, including some operating as part of dual carrier operations in the Mediterranean Sea as part of either the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) CSG or the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) CSG. The 11 destroyers were USS Carney (DDG 64), USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93), USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Mitscher (DDG 57), USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Porter (DDG 78), USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), and USS Ross (DDG 71). These ships carried out the execution of all surface combatant operations and exercises in the areas of responsibility for U.S. Europe Command (EUCOM) and U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Through the planning and coordination of CTF 65, USS Donald Cook and USS Ross were able to conduct maritime security operations within the Black Sea in order to enhance regional maritime stability, combined readiness, and naval capability with our NATO allies and partners in the region.
Allied coordination and integration has become a focal point in carrying the workload in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. USS Donald Cook participated in FANAL, the French deployment certification exercise for the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle CSG, and USS Ross deployed with the Charles de Gaulle CSG for operations in the Eastern Mediterranean before the French strike group transited the Suez Canal en route to the Persian Gulf. Seamless coordination occurred among the U.S. and French ships, and CTF 65’s planning and forethought enabled the two allies’ aircraft to operate together, expanding the lethality of the combined force.
CTF 65 coordinated ship participation for the Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST), which is a Royal Navy certification event. The staff ensured all assets were operationally ready to execute the schedule provided.
“Our operations in 2019 so far demonstrate that last year’s uptick was not an anomaly,” said Capt. Joseph Gagliano, deputy commodore of CTF 65. “It was the start of the next phase of high-tempo operations in the great power competition.”
2019 has proven to be one of high operational tempo at CTF 65. They have maintained the highest level of operational and tactical readiness even despite the shift of the staff’s headquarters.
CTF 65 and DESRON 60, headquartered in Rota, Spain, overseas the forward-deployed forces of U.S. 6th Fleet’s area of operation in support of regional allies and partners as well as U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
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.