By : Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Scott Barnes
On behalf of the crew of the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), Capt. David Pollard, commanding officer of Mount Whitney, presented critical medical equipment and supplies to a local hospital in Gaeta, Italy, assisting in the resupply of depleted stocks after heavy demand during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.
“This donation is a true sign of friendship and collaboration,” said Cosmo Mitrano, mayor of Gaeta. “This equipment will aid in the fight against COVID-19.”
“The Mount Whitney and its crew are honored to be a part of this community and to call Gaeta its home,” said Capt. Pollard. “It is in large part due to their efforts that we are here today to make this presentation.”
The last of three donation events, the U.S. Navy donated more than $1.3 million in personal protective equipment showing the Navy’s commitment in supporting Italy’s fight against COVID-19. This donation followed similar events held at local hospitals in Campania and Sicily, helping to replenish depleted stocks in heavy demand while the pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the globe.
Included in the donation were stocks of masks, gloves, and aprons which were specifically identified as essential in protecting the health and lives of Italian caregivers combatting the COVID-19, as well as other illnesses. Past donations included an ultra sound machine, which was procured in Italy, allowing the Gaeta Hospital to possess lifesaving capability to combat COVID-19.
“The U.S. Navy has been a part of the Gaeta community, and Italy, for over 70 years. Thousands of U.S. Navy personnel have lived and worked here,” said Capt. Pollard. “Italian hospitals regularly treat U.S. service members and their families. It’s only natural that we look for opportunities like this to support our local communities and show our appreciation for our strong and enduring friendship.”
Host nation hospitals regularly accept U.S. service members and their families for care when outside the scope of U.S. military hospitals.
Nearly 10,000 U.S. Navy personnel and families live and work on bases in Naples and Sigonella and call Italy ‘home.’ As Italy implemented national and local decrees restricting movements and closing non-essential establishments, U.S. forces enacted parallel measures. These changes were implemented in line with the Italian government in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect U.S. forces and host nation personnel.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet continue their missions of conducting maritime operations in Europe and Africa, even as they seek ways to help fight the coronavirus and recover from the impact it has had.
The United States stands alongside Italy with concrete measures contained in a $60 million assistance package to help Italian healthcare institutions, NGOs, and the private sector fight the pandemic and prepare the country for future challenges. In addition, U.S. companies have offered over €50 million (or approximately $60 million) in donations and assistance.
Forces stand ready throughout the two theaters, and command leadership remains committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of forces, as well as local residents. Warships, submarines, and aircraft continue their patrols to deter and defend against threats to U.S., NATO, and partner nations.
Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy operates with a combined crew of U.S. Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
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.