By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs
The U.S. Sixth Fleet flag ship, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and staff arrived in Split, Croatia, for a port visit on July 30, 2021, before kicking off Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021.
Charge d’Affaires Mark Fleming welcomed the port visit and noted defense cooperation between the United States and Croatia is a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship.
Fleming said: “Over the past ten years, U.S. military assistance to Croatia reached approximately four and a half billion Kuna (over $700 million) in the form of training, equipment, infrastructure construction, and specialized military education. Since Croatia joined the NATO Alliance 12 years ago, U.S. and Croatian military personnel have served together from Afghanistan to Iraq to Kosovo. The U.S.-Croatia partnership on land and at sea is essential to our two countries’ NATO military cooperation and shared security.”
U.S. Navy ships frequently stop in Croatia for maintenance and mutual security operations. Rijeka is a hub for U.S.-Croatia cooperation, with the port city benefiting economically from nearly 900 million Kuna in contracted services by the U.S. Navy since 2011. Earlier this year, three U.S. ships were berthed in the shipyard for regularly scheduled maintenance.
In April 2021, U.S. Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) divers provided training in Humanitarian Mine Action to the Croatian Navy’s underwater EOD team at Lora Naval Base, and also broke ground on a U.S.-led project to develop an EOD training facility that will enable the Croatian Navy to conduct humanitarian demining of all water in their area of responsibility.
“Croatia stands as a critical NATO Ally, facilitating overseas maintenance of forward deployed U.S. Navy ships,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet. “Croatia’s world-class shipyards and mine countermeasure capabilities ensure continued naval presence and maritime security throughout the region.”
U.S. Sixth Fleet forces regularly work with Croatian partners, building capacity for the Croatian military, including training together in naval diving and operating shoulder-to-shoulder around the European and African theater.
After departing Split, Mount Whitney will kick off LSE 2021, a two-week live, scenario-driven, globally integrated exercise that will provide high-end training at sea and ashore against a challenging adversary force. LSE 2021 will signal that the U.S. military remains ready because of its global operation commitments and is stronger because of its alliances.
USS Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy, operates with a combined crew of Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in Europe and Africa. The 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.