By Mass Communication 3rd Class Theoplis Stewart II Commander, Carrier Strike Group 8, Public Affairs
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) arrived in Durres, Albania for a scheduled port visit, May 29, 2022.
The port visit gives the ship routine maintenance opportunity while Sailors enjoy liberty, strengthening the partnership with our NATO ally Albania.
“The primary purpose of this port visit is to allow our sailors to take liberty,” said Cmdr. Michael Kiser, commanding officer of USS Jason Dunham. “It gives our Sailors a chance to get some rest, spend some time on land, and enjoy the hospitality, sights and scenes of Albania.”
The visit to Durres is Jason Dunham’s first port visit to Albania since deploying from their homeport of Mayport, Florida in December 2021. Jason Dunham is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR) area of operations, conducting maritime and security operations, while enhancing interoperability with allies and partners.
“The crew has continued to impress us with every mission we are tasked with and executed them with the utmost amount of professionalism and precision,” said Cmdr. Robert Keller, executive officer of USS Jason Dunham. “This deployment has been challenging given the state of the geopolitical situation across Europe, and it’s always tough to be away from loved ones, but the crew has done an incredible job of showing resilience and bonding together and responding as needed.”
During the port visit, Sailors will have the chance to explore the local area and learn about Albania’s rich culture as they experience a respite from their time at sea. Every Sailor is an ambassador for the United States and a liberty port is a contributing factor to mission success.
“When our Sailors go out in town or anywhere in a foreign country, immediately they are recognized as Americans, or American service members,” said Kiser. “So it is important to leave a positive impression in the eyes of the community that U.S. Navy Sailors are professionals, responsible, and having us around is a good thing.”
Since arriving in theater, Jason Dunham has routinely operated alongside NATO allies and partners through a variety of activities. The ship recently integrated with Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) in support of the NATO-led activity Neptune Shield.
“It is important NATO countries are able to get together and work together in order to establish our common goals,” said Kiser. “In order to have collective defense, the ships have to be able to communicate with each other in order to actually exercise defense, so interoperability and the ability to work together to achieve common ends is so important.”
Working together has been the name of the game for Jason Dunham’s crew in the NAVEUR area of operations. The ship spent time in March attached to the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) joint task force, where they integrated an organizational mission statement, “We are NATO,” into their own mission statement.
"'We are NATO,’ for us, has allowed us to work with so many other nations, see how other navies operate, the different capabilities that they come to bear and also allows us to learn and get better,” said Keller. “We look forward to assuring the Alliance we are here standing beside them for whatever they need.”
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe -U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.
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