By USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Hosts Visit for U.S. AFRICOM, Tunisian Defense and U.S. Sixth Fleet Leadership
U.S. Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), U.S Sixth Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Gene Black, Tunisian Ministry of Defense Chief of Cabinet, Abdelhak Khemiri, Tunisian Navy Chief of Staff, Rear Adm. Adel Jehane; and Tunisian Air Force Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Hajem visited the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) aircraft carrier, to discuss joint efforts to enhance Tunisia’s maritime security, March 25, 2021.
Townsend met with Tunisian Ministry of Defense Chief of Cabinet, Abdelhak Khemiri; Tunisian Navy Chief of Staff, Rear Adm. Adel Jehane; and Tunisian Air Force Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Hajem. Also attending the meeting were Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, AFRICOM intelligence director, Vice Adm. Eugene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet and deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa; Rear Adm. Scott Robertson, commander, Carrier Strike Group 2; and Gregory LoGerfo, deputy chief of mission, U.S. Embassy in Tunisia.
"The United States and Tunisia have a long and strong partnership—particularly in the military sphere. We also share concerns for security in the region,” said Townsend at the conclusion of the meeting.
“Today’s meeting led by General Townsend is symbolic of the strong and enduring partnership between the United States and Tunisia which dates back to the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1797,” said LoGerfo. “We remain committed to advancing our shared defense cooperation goals to strengthen regional security by combatting terrorism and safeguarding Tunisian sovereignty through enhanced maritime security.”
The delegations discussed the strong relationship with Tunisia as a key partner and a critical ally on NATO’s southern flank.
“As allies, we work together to enhance Tunisia's security—and thus the region’s security. Today we’re focused on maritime domain awareness and maritime security concerns,” said Townsend.
“Our visit to the USS Dwight Eisenhower reflects the high level of partnership and mutual cooperation with the US Navy,” said Jehane. “The Tunisian Navy is committed to accomplishing its assigned mission of countering threats against our national interests at sea or coming from the sea and to actively participate in the international maritime community effort to make the Mediterranean Sea safe and peaceful, and therefore ensuring freedom of navigation,” he added.
“We are excited to have hosted U.S. AFRICOM, U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Tunisian defense leadership aboard the flagship of our mighty strike group,” said Rear Adm. Scott F. Robertson, Commander, Carrier Strike Group TWO. “Engaging with key officials helps to provide opportunities that enhance mutual understanding of our combat readiness and capabilities as well as to emphasize the strategic importance in strengthening our partnerships.”
Townsend highlighted the importance of joint training and exercises to increase collective responsiveness and the ability of the two countries’ militaries to operate together.
"By training together we increase our interoperability with international partners while maintaining a high state of readiness to address mutual security challenges and goals."
Tunisia is a major non-NATO ally, and serves as host or major contributor to U.S. Africa Command exercises such as African Lion and Phoenix Express. Tunisia will serve as a satellite location for African Lion in June 2021. African Lion is a joint, all-domain, multi-national exercise designed to counter malign activity and increase interoperability between U.S., African, and international partners to defend the theater from adversary military aggression.
The visit follows a series of maritime exercises that the IKE CSG conducted starting in early March with Morocco, and later alongside Italy, Greece, and Turkey, ending in a four-day liberty port visit to Souda Bay, Greece.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is a multiplatform team of ships, aircraft and more than 5,000 sailors, capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions around the globe.
Deploying ships and aircraft of the strike group, commanded Robertson, include flagship USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69); the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61); Destroyer Squadron 22 ships include Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Mitscher (DDG 57), USS Laboon (DDG 58), USS Mahan (DDG 72), and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
Squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, embarked on Eisenhower include the "Fighting Swordsmen" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32, "Gunslingers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, "Wildcats" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, "Rampagers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83; "Dusty Dogs" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7; "Swamp Foxes" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74; "Screwtops" of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 123; "Zappers" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130, and a detachment from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 "Rawhides."
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.