By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damon Grosvenor
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) returned to Naval Station Rota, Spain, Nov. 8, 2019, completing its ninth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
“The patrol was a success in every aspect,” said Cmdr. Kelley T. Jones, commanding officer of the ship. “Donald Cook participated in several international exercises to build theater cooperation such as Mighty Waves, Atlas Handshake, and Flag Officer Sea Training with the Royal Navy. The crew also experienced liberty in unique ports like Theoule-Sur-Mer, France; Plymouth, England; Runavik, Faroe Islands; and Agadir, Morocco.”
Donald Cook visited a total of seven ports. The first was Haifa, Israel, from August 4-6, where the ship participated in the Israeli-led naval exercise Mighty Waves 2019. During Mighty Waves, Donald Cook’s crew assisted in evacuating medical causalities while collaborating with French, Greek, and Israeli allies. The navies conducted several simulated medical casualties and transported patients between ships via rigid-hull inflatable boats, treated patients aboard the ship, and medically evacuated patients via an Israeli helicopter.
After Mighty Waves, the ship headed to Souda Bay, Greece, for stores onload, then steamed on toward Theoule-Sur-Mer, France, for the 75th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon, August 14-15. After the commemoration, the ship sailed back to Naval Station Rota, Spain, for its Training and Readiness Availability Period. From there, the ship headed to Plymouth, England, for Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST). After three weeks of intense training, the crew successfully completed FOST.
Next on the ship’s itinerary was a historic inaugural visit to the Faroe Islands, October 11-12. No Arleigh Burke-class destroyer had ever visited the Islands. The visit enhanced the United States’ relationship with the Kingdom of Denmark and the autonomous territory of the Faroe Islands. The crew then suffered harsh seas and the trials of Boreas Rex when they entered the Arctic Circle at the Prime Meridian. Donald Cook’s crew became “Blue Noses” in Navy Tradition after a ceremony on Oct. 21. The ship headed back to Rota, Spain, for a few more training evaluations and then proceeded to Agadir, Morocco.
Following a port visit to Agadir, Morocco, the ship participated in bilateral exercise Atlas Handshake with the Royal Moroccan Navy multi-mission frigate Sultan Moulay Ismail (FF 614). After several maneuvering evolutions and gunnery exercises, the ship pulled back into Naval Station Rota, Spain, concluding its ninth patrol.
“Being granted the opportunity to pull into ports that no other American Navy ship had been to in years was definitely an experience that I will appreciate,” said Hospitalman Luke Metcalf. “Acting as ambassadors to people who may have never even met an American before is a unique experience that is impossible to take for granted.”
Metcalf said that the training he received was unique and that he would remember the experiences for a long time.
“The training and work the crew conducted throughout the four months really inspires me and the wardroom,” said Jones. “Our team has been working extra hard and pulling their own weight, if not more. For personal pride, several Sailors earned their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin among other personal qualifications.”
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 to ensure security and stability in Europe and Africa.