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NEWS | Feb. 21, 2024

USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) arrives in Harstad, Norway, for Steadfast Defender 2024

By MC1 Ryan Seelbach

USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship arrived in Harstad, Norway, Feb. 21, 2024 for a scheduled port visit during NATO exercise Steadfast Defender 24.

USS Gunston Hall will later be joined by Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi and amphibious transport dock San Giorgio. The USS Gunston Hall has embarked French forces onto the ship in Portsmouth, U.K. and will be embarking Finnish and Swedish forces in Harstad to conduct amphibious training exercises in Norway.

Exercise Steadfast Defender will involve approximately 90,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen from across the 31 NATO Allied countries and Sweden participating in Steadfast Defender 2024. Beyond the significant contribution of personnel supporting these operations, we have approximately 50 naval assets and over 80 aircraft assigned to the exercise, all bringing diverse capabilities. Through exercises like Steadfast Defender, the collective aim is to prevent conflict, solidify relationships and enhance force readiness through robust training.

"We are excited to be here in Harstad to begin staging for the upcoming amphibious training events,” said Cmdr. Christopher W. Van Loenen, commanding officer, Gunston Hall. “As our Allies and partners integrate with our ship we will learn from one another and have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us sending allied and partner amphibious crafts from our welldeck to the shores of Norway."

This is the second 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.

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 approximately 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.

Follow exercise Steadfast Defender: