By Lt. j. g. Sarah Claudy
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) transited from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, concluding its recent Black Sea operations, February 10, 2021.
Donald Cook entered the Black Sea on Jan. 23, 2021 to conduct presence operations, demonstrate commitment to NATO allies and partners in the region, and engage in exercises that strengthen interoperability and collective readiness.
Another Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Porter (DDG 78), and Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO 203) joined Donald Cook in the Black Sea. The three ships cooperated to build collective maritime defense capabilities. Donald Cook conducted two underway replenishments (UNREPs) with Laramie, demonstrating a new model for U.S. operations in the Black Sea.
Donald Cook made a port visit to Batumi, Georgia, Feb. 5, where a formal arrival ceremony symbolized the importance of relationships between partners in the Black Sea region. Donald Cook Sailors manned the rails in their Service Dress Blue uniforms and saluted while the American and Georgian national anthems played. Their counterparts from the Georgian Coast Guard returned the salute from the pier. Cmdr. Matthew Curnen, Donald Cook’s commanding officer, participated in a virtual meet and greet with senior officers from the Georgian Coast Guard, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan.
After the port visit to Batumi, Georgia, Donald Cook met with Porter and two Turkish frigates, TCG Orucreis (F 245) and TCG Turgutreis (F 241), to conduct a series of maneuverability and tactical exercises. Two Turkish F-16 fighter and reconnaissance aircraft joined the surface vessels to participate in an Air Defense exercise, and a U.S. P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft joined a following Anti-Submarine Warfare exercise. The day’s events demonstrated the U.S. Navy’s continued commitment to NATO cooperation in the region.
Of Donald Cook’s recent Black Sea operations, Curnen said he was “proud to represent the U.S. Navy as we continue to strengthen ties with allies in the region.”
He reflected on interactions with Black Sea partners saying, “We enjoyed an extremely warm welcome in Batumi, and then gained valuable tactical experience by practicing with our Turkish counterparts. I’m glad that even in the COVID era, we are able to work with partners to increase our collective readiness.”
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.