By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes, USS Mount Whitney Public Affairs
The U.S. Sixth Fleet flag ship, Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), celebrated its 50th birthday with a small ceremony in Gaeta, Italy, Jan. 14.
Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, gave remarks as the crew, local dignitaries, and Navy leadership reflected on the storied history and distinguished role Mount Whitney has played in key operations and exercises around the world since the ship’s commissioning.
“This ship’s history and accomplishments are truly remarkable,” said Black. “You’ve enabled operations at sea, participated in joint service and multi-national exercises, and provided humanitarian assistance to our partners in need.”
Over the years, Mount Whitney was on scene for many major world events including Operation Uphold Democracy, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Assured Delivery, and Operation Odyssey Dawn.
“From Trident Juncture to Trident Jupiter, from Juniper Cobra to BALTOPS, Mount Whitney has been the lynchpin of our fleet from the Arctic to the Mediterranean,” said Adm. Robert P. Burke, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa and commander, Allied Joint Force Command-Naples, via virtual remarks. “From routine operations to the enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 against Libya and then directing kinetic operations as Flagship during Odyssey Dawn and NATO’s Unified Protector, Mount Whitney is our enduring ‘Vox Maris,’ our ‘Voice of the Sea.’”
As one of two Blue Ridge-class command ships in the United States Navy, Mount Whitney also serves as the afloat command ship for Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), which Black also commands.
“Here on Mount Whitney, I know you’re fond of saying your ‘comms are bombs,’ and these comms are incredible, ensuring that I, or any embarked commander, can confidently and effectively command and control widely-dispersed air, ground, and maritime units in an integrated fashion,” said Black. “These accomplishments do not happen without your collective knowledge, skill, and expertise.”
Capt. David Pollard, commanding officer of Mount Whitney, also provided remarks on the capabilities of his ship.
“Mount Whitney is the most sophisticated Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Combat Systems, and Intelligence (C5I) ship in the world, and the hybrid crew of Military Sealift Command Civilian Mariners and United States Navy Sailors are phenomenal, ready to support operations across all domains,” said Pollard.
The Mount Whitney has hosted countless distinguished visitors, ambassadors, military leaders, and heads of state, including the Prince of Monaco and the presidents of Lithuania and Ukraine.
“Today, Mount Whitney continues the legacy of the Sailors and Civilian Mariners of our great nation that have come before us as warriors, teachers, leaders, and ambassadors,” said Pollard. “We stand ready to demonstrate ‘Power for Peace’ across 20 million square nautical miles of ocean, from the Barents to the Baltic, to the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, to the waters surrounding the African continent.”
The ship is named for Mount Whitney, a peak in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. Mount Whitney is the highest summit in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet. She is the first Navy ship to bear the name.
The ship’s unit awards include two Navy Unit Commendations, three Meritorious Unit Commendations, 10 Battle “E” Awards, and a Humanitarian Service Medal. Mount Whitney was the first U.S. naval combatant to permanently accommodate female Sailors and has the distinct accomplishment of being the only commissioned U.S. warship to operate south of the equator and north of the Arctic Circle in the same year.
Mount Whitney was commissioned as a unit of Commander, Amphibious Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia. The ship served for years as the Commander, Striking Fleet Atlantic and U.S. Second Fleet flag ship. In 2005, Mount Whitney was forward-deployed to Gaeta and assumed her current role as the U.S. Sixth Fleet flagship.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conduct 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.