An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | Jan. 30, 2024

NAVEUR-NAVAF Band visits Helsinki, performs at Help Center for Ukrainians

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Band kicked off its five-day visit to Helsinki with a concert at the Help Center for Ukrainians in Helsinki, Finland, Jan. 27, 2024.

In addition to the Help Center concert, the five-day visit will include concerts at Kauniala Veteran’s Hospital, Vaskivuori High School, Marjatta Schools, and U.S. Embassy to Finland, as well as workshops with the Turku Rock Academy and students from Vaskivuori High School.

“Music is the world language, a sort of cure-all to some of the problems that ail the world,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kelly Cartwright, Bandmaster. “To be given the opportunity to travel to this beautiful city, engage with the community, and welcome the newest NATO member by sharing our music with each other was a wonderful experience.”

The Help Center in Helsinki is a part of the Ukrainian Association in Finland (UAF), an organization founded as a cultural touchpoint for Ukrainians, but transforming into a humanitarian support organization following the Donbas War in 2014. Following the invasion in 2022, the organization is heavily focused on humanitarian support, and assisting Ukrainian refugees upon their arrival in Finland.

“On Feb. 24, 2022, everything changed,” said Vassili Goutsoul, the chairperson of UAF, in reference to the first day of the invasion of Ukraine. “It seemed to me that the Finnish people immediately decided that [they] should be – must be – in NATO. For Ukrainian refugees, they know Finland is a safe country for them… here, we are under the [NATO] umbrella.”

The visit follows Adm. Stuart. B. Munsch’s meeting with Lt. Gen. Vesa Virtanen, Chief of Defense Command Finland, to discuss Finland’s military integration into NATO and the role they play in meeting today’s dynamic security environment. Finland integration into the collective defense strategy follows Finland officially becoming the 31st member of NATO in April 2023.

U.S. Embassy spokesperson Susan Bridenstine said “Finland’s and soon Sweden’s, NATO membership is a historic step that makes us all stronger and safer. The U.S.-Finland relationship has never been better.”

This year, the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Band is incorporating U.S. Marine Corps Musicians creating a blue-green musician team. An integral part of the Marine Corps’ and U.S. Navy’s tasks is to create, maintain, and develop relations with other nations. Dispersed around the world, you will find multiple bands prepared to relay the message of togetherness through music.

The Naval Forces Europe and Africa Band, stationed in Naples, Italy, is the U.S. Navy’s official band in Europe and Africa. The band reaches a combined audience of more than 60 million people across 35 countries throughout the course of more than 500 annual engagements. The band’s performances in Sal Island will include musicians augmented from the Second Marine Aircraft Wing Band from Cherry Point, North Carolina. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps have an integrated maritime strategy and often work together with African partners to improve maritime domain awareness around the continent.

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.