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By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs
Four U.S. Navy vessels arrived in the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for scheduled port visits, Aug. 20.
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) arrived in Klaipėda, Lithuania, while San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) entered port in Riga, Latvia, and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117) arrived in Tallinn, Estonia.
The presence of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), along with USS Paul Ignatius, in the Baltic countries demonstrates the United States’ commitment to regional allies and partners. Their presence also underscores the ability of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa to provide flexible and dynamic capabilities where and when needed.
“The Kearsarge ARG-MEU team is privileged to have the opportunity to visit the historic and beautiful city of Klaipėda, strengthening the bonds between the U.S. and the countries that call the Baltic Sea home,” said Capt. Tom Foster, commanding officer of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). “We are extremely grateful to our Lithuanian hosts for their part in preserving the readiness and responsiveness of our units and personnel.”
Arlington, Gunston Hall, and Kearsarge, who compose the Kearsarge ARG, arrived in their respective ports after a two-week period of bilateral training with the Finnish Armed Forces near the Finnish Archipelago and the Hanko region. Prior to the training event with Finland, Gunston Hall conducted a port visit in Tallinn, Aug. 5-8, where the ship’s leaders hosted Estonian military and governmental leaders for key leader engagements and ship tours.
Paul Ignatius, homeported at Naval Station Rota, Spain as the third of four long-planned rotations of the Rota-based destroyers, has operated in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR) area of operations since departing from the U.S. East Coast in June. The ship is on a scheduled patrol in the region, and Tallinn marks the first port visit of the current patrol.
“I am extremely excited to bring the ship and our crew to Tallinn to continue developing the strong partnership enjoyed with Estonia and the Estonian Defense Forces,” said Cmdr. Aaron Arky, commanding officer of Paul Ignatius. “I look forward to welcoming guests onboard USS Paul Ignatius and am thankful for this opportunity.”
While in port, all crews are looking forward to strengthening interpersonal relations with their Baltic allies. These port visits demonstrate the strong and enduring relationships the U.S. enjoys with all three nations. They also provide assigned Sailors and Marines opportunities to explore the rich cultures and histories of the Baltic nations.
“The Gunston Hall crew and embarked Marines are excited to be heading to Riga to experience the rich culture and history of Latvia,” said Cmdr. Beth Nelson, commanding officer of USS Gunston Hall. “We are thrilled to be strengthening relationships with our Baltic Allies while also enjoying some rest and recreation. We thank Riga for the hospitality and look forward to our visit.”
The Kearsarge ARG and embarked 22nd MEU are under the command and control of Task Force 61/2. The ARG consists of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3); the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24); and the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).
Embarked commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron SIX, 22nd MEU, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Fleet Surgical Team 4, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Tactical Air Combat Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Naval Beach Group 2, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, and Beach Master Unit 2.
Paul Ignatius operates under the command and control of Commander, Task Force 65 and Destroyer Squadron 60 as a member of Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E), in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense architecture. These FDNF-E ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.
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.