By Lt. j. g. Sarah Claudy
BATUMI, Georgia (Feb. 5, 2021) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) conducted an arrival ceremony in Batumi, Georgia, while making a brief stop for fuel and supplies, Feb. 5, 2021.
The port visit and associated arrival ceremony symbolized the importance of relationships between allies and partners in the Black Sea region. COVID-19 mitigation requirements precluded the two groups from physically mingling, but virtual meetings and a gift exchange still promoted a sense of fellowship.
“On behalf of the women and men of the U.S. Mission to Tbilisi, I bid USS Donald Cook a warm welcome back to Georgia!” said Amb. Kelly Degnan, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia. “This visit, like so many over the years, reinforces the strong defense and security relationship between the United States and Georgia. We’re especially proud of the partnership between the U.S. Navy and the Georgian Coast Guard, who will continue training together in support of improved Black Sea security.”
Cmdr. Matthew Curnen, Donald Cook commanding officer, said that it was both incredible and uplifting that COVID-19 has not prohibited the ship from continuing its important mission.
“Displaying our commitment to allies and fostering diplomacy has always been a major part of Donald Cook’s mission in Sixth Fleet,” said Cmdr. Curnen. “It is especially pleasant when, in cases such as our visit to Batumi today, that mission manifests itself as a warm welcome and friendly conversation between fellow mariners.”
Part of the arrival ceremony involved Curnen exchanging gifts with the Director and Deputy Directors of the Georgian Coast Guard. A Skype call from Donald Cook’s pilothouse allowed the senior officers to make personal introductions and speak about their recent time at sea.
Donald Cook last visited Batumi, Georgia in January 2019. In an arrival statement, Cmdr. Curnen referred to the crew’s last visit, saying, “I’ve personally heard from members of the crew that our last port visit to Batumi was particularly enjoyable, and so we regret that COVID-19 challenges have prevented us from enjoying liberty in the city this time around. However, our visit today is symbolic of our countries’ continued strong partnership, and I look forward to a time when we will once again enjoy what beautiful Batumi has to offer.”
The Black Sea is a critical waterway for maritime commerce and stability in Europe. Combined operations in the Black Sea will strengthen interoperability between NATO partners and allies, including Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania. Black Sea operations also demonstrate the U. S. Navy’s commitment to peace and security in the U.S. Sixth Fleet Area of Responsibility.
The U.S. Navy routinely operates ships in the Black Sea consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law.
Donald Cook is currently on her 11th patrol of the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
Four U.S. Navy destroyers, including Donald Cook, are based in Rota, Spain, and assigned to Commander, Task Force 65 in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense architecture. These Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.
U.S. Sixth 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.