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By Lt. Kathleen Barrios, USS Forrest Sherman Public Affairs
LTRJ Stefano Sinigaglia never imagined he would experience life aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer during Italy’s largest maritime exercise of the summer. Originally from Bisceglie, Italy, Sinigaglia has been serving as an Officer of the Deck and Weapons Officer aboard the Carlo Bergamini-class frigate ITS Alpino (F 594) of the Italian Navy since April 2021. During Exercise Mare Aperto 22 in October 2022, he had the opportunity to spend one month aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).
“Spending time with the U.S. Navy is a dynamic, international and extremely rewarding experience,” said Sinigaglia. “USS Forrest Sherman is a ship that carries out many activities of great interest. This has been a very precious opportunity to exchange skills in the naval field which constitutes an added value for the Italian Navy.”
During the same time period, Lt. j. g. Noah Zorzi, an Engineering Division Officer serving aboard USS Forrest Sherman and originally from Fairfax, Virginia, was equally as surprised when afforded the opportunity to swap places with Sinigaglia and spend two weeks aboard ITS Alpino.
“Spending time on the ITS Alpino was an incredible experience,” said Zorzi. “The crew is exceptionally proficient and impressive in the way they operate their ship, and was extremely welcoming. Being able to take my experience and expand upon what I have learned from the Italian Navy and how they operate is something that will only strengthen my understanding and level of knowledge as a Naval Officer, especially as a NATO partner.”
Multiple NATO nations, including Italy, Germany, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom, participated in Exercise Mare Aperto 22, a high-end exercise sponsored by the Italian Navy aimed at strengthening and enhancing the combat readiness of participating assets in the conduct of maritime operations.
Sinigaglia, a proficient mariner with six years of experience in the Italian Navy, has been preparing for this exercise for months. He provided valuable training to Forrest Sherman’s bridge team and stood watch as a tactical communicator during special evolutions throughout the exercise. While aboard, he promoted to the rank of LTRJ and had his shoulder boards replaced by Cmdr. Lawrence Heyworth IV, commanding officer of Forrest Sherman.
“It was a privilege to train alongside the Forrest Sherman crew, fully integrated in one of the biggest Italian naval exercises,” said Sinigaglia. “The integration of young officers like me in these multi-national exercises represents another chance to hone and enhance our skills as mariners and warfighters within the NATO Alliance.”
Exercise Mare Aperto 22 provided a unique opportunity for enhanced interoperability and interchangeability on the high seas between NATO Allies. Throughout the exercise, the participating units conducted anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare exercises, as well as multiple replenishment-at-sea.
“Taking part in Mare Aperto 22 aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer has changed my perspective a full 360 degrees,” said Sinigaglia. “The U.S. Navy has a deep understanding of the maritime domain, freedom of navigation, securing maritime trade routes, and protecting sea lines of communication. This gave me the opportunity to enhance my skills as Weapon Director and officer for the Italian Navy.”
The two junior officers took away many lessons by immersing themselves in the lifestyle and warfighting mentality of the other nation’s navy. By understanding how the other navy plans, trains and executes, we will become stronger as a team.
“Interoperability is one of the hallmarks of what we are doing here in the Mediterranean with our NATO allies,” said Zorzi. “Standing watch on the bridge, learning the ships characteristics, and most importantly getting to know the Sailors onboard, has reinforced our relationships and improved our interoperability.”
USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) is the flagship for Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2), a multinational integrated task group that projects a constant and visible reminder of the Alliance’s solidarity and cohesion afloat and provides the Alliance with a continuous maritime capability to perform a wide range of tasks, including exercises and real-world operations in periods of crisis and conflict.