By U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs
Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, completed a 5-day visit to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during exercise Baltic Operations, 12-16 June, 2021.
Black met with military leaders of the three Baltic nations to discuss the current maritime security environment and toured all three nations’ maritime operations centers, which demonstrated Baltic information sharing to provide enhanced maritime domain awareness.
“Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania set the standard for collaboration across the Alliance,” said Black. “Together, these nations facilitate collective security across NATO’s eastern flank. Their commitment to NATO and continued investment in naval capabilities ensures freedom of navigation and stability throughout the Baltic.”
While in Tallinn, Estonia, the headquarters of the Estonian Navy and the nation’s capital, Black met with the Estonian Chief of Defense, Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, before getting underway on Estonian minehunter EML Admiral Cowen (M 313) with Estonian head of Navy Commodore Jüri Saska. While aboard, Cowen’s mine countermeasure (MCM) team disposed of a historic mine in the Baltic Sea, ensuring freedom of navigation and protecting sea lines of communication.
Next, Black flew to Riga, Latvia and met with the Latvian Minister of Defense, Dr. Artis Pabriks. Then Latvian Chief of Defense, Lt. Gen. Leonids Kalnins and Black visited Brethren Cemetery to participate in a “Day of Remembrance,” honoring those who were deported in 1941. The ceremony underscored the continued importance of NATO’s collective commitment to defense and security. Following a visit to the Latvian Joint Headquarters, the VIPs then visited Adazi Military Camp to participate in a pass-in-review and then toured NATO’s investment and development in the facility.
Following Latvia, Black visited Klaipėda, Lithuania to attend Baltic Fortress DV-Day alongside U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania, Robert S. Gilchrist; German Gen. Jorg Vollmer, commander, Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum; and the hosts, Lithuanian Chief of Defense Lt. Gen. Valdemaras Rupšys and Lithuanian Head of Navy Capt. Giedrius Premeneckas. Baltic Fortress has been taking place since 2008 and is a joint training exercise of the Baltic naval forces, which certifies Baltic naval officers to operate at the Task Group Level. The organizational responsibility rotates every year between the three Baltic States. Baltic Fortress focuses on coastal defense and harbor security, ensuring stability and access across the maritime domain
This year, Baltic Fortress is linked to the 50th BALTOPS. Royal Navy Marines embarked on HMS Albion conducted amphibious operations in the port and participants from nine nations worked to establish coastal defense.
Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, represent three of the 18 Nations participating in the 50th BALTOPS. This milestone exercise demonstrates a steadfast commitment to NATO and continues to change to meet evolving regional security requirements.