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NEWS | Feb. 8, 2024

USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) arrives in Portsmouth ahead of Steadfast Defender

By Task Force 61/2 Public Affairs

USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship arrived in Portsmouth, United Kingdom, Feb. 8, 2024 for a scheduled port visit prior to their participation in Exercise Steadfast Defender 24.

Exercise Steadfast Defender will involve approximately 90,000 forces from 31 Allies and Sweden. The exercise will validate NATO’s ability to deploy forces rapidly from North America and other parts of the Alliance to reinforce the defense of Europe, and to showcase NATO’s ability to conduct and sustain complex multi-domain operations over several months, across thousands of miles, and in any conditions, from the High North to Central and Eastern Europe.

"The Gunston Hall and her team are looking forward to building on the strong strategic relationships we have established in NATO,” said Cmdr. Christopher W. Van Loenen, commanding officer, Gunston Hall. “We are excited to have our partners and allies embarked on our ship throughout Steadfast Defender 2024, showcasing interoperability and our ship to shore capabilities."

This is the first port call for Gunston Hall following its departure from Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 24.  During Steadfast Defender, Gunston Hall will participate in Exercises Joint Warrior and Nordic Response. The Gunston Hall arrived in the Sixth Fleet area of operations on Feb. 1.

Gunston Hall is one of the most versatile amphibious platforms in the U.S. Navy. With two large helicopter landing pads, the largest well deck in the fleet and troop berthing facilities, she has the ability to embark a diverse array of military forces, including NATO Allies and partners when needed.  The U.S. ship is among more than 50 NATO naval assets, 80 air platforms, and 1,100 combat vehicles participating in Steadfast Defender.  This year marks the 75th anniversary of the NATO Alliance, and the exercise is the largest NATO exercise in 36 years. 

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with 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 USEUCOM and 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.