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NEWS | March 30, 2024

USS Gunston Hall Arrives in Cherbourg, France

By USS Gunston Hall Public Affairs

The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) arrived in Cherbourg, France, 28 March, to disembark French Marines following NATO’s largest exercise in decades, exercise Steadfast Defender 24.

Gunston Hall originally embarked the Platoon of French Marines in February when they pulled into Portsmouth, UK. The U.S. Navy embarking, integrating, and operating with Allied forces demonstrated NATO’s ability to deploy forces rapidly from North America and other parts of the Alliance to reinforce the defense of Europe across thousands of kilometers, from the High North to Central and Eastern Europe, and in any conditions.

"Working with the French Marines has been beneficial to becoming a more efficient and stronger Alliance” said Cmdr. Christopher W. Van Loenen, Gunston Hall's commanding officer. “Integrating with our Allies provides us the opportunity to exchange warfighting lessons and learn from each other in real time.”

Steadfast Defender 24 is a multi-domain operational and tactical-level live exercise. During the exercise, Allies demonstrated their ability to deploy some 90,000 forces from North America and other parts of the Alliance, move them to and across Europe, from the Arctic to the Eastern flank of the Alliance, to conduct defensive operations. NATO exercises are defensive, transparent and proportionate, and conducted in full respect of our international obligations.

During Steadfast Defender, Gunston Hall operated alongside Italian Landing Assault Helicopter Ship Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian amphibious transport dock San Giorgio, and French Navy Aquitaine-class Frigate Normandie. Gunston Hall carried out five amphibious exercises and 19 well deck operations in the High North with French, Finnish, and NATO's newest Ally, Sweden. As these Allies all worked together in the maritime domain, it showcased the interoperability and strength of the Alliance.

Gunston Hall’s integration within Steadfast Defender 2024 and their presence in Sixth Fleet emphasizes the United States Navy’s dedication to NATO’s transatlantic unity and determination to continue to do all that is necessary to protect its Allies, our collective values and the rules-based international order that NATO stands for.

Gunston Hall is an amphibious vessel currently assigned to the U.S. 2nd Fleet based in Norfolk, Virginia. It is one of the 50 NATO naval assets, accompanied by 80 air platforms and 1,100 combat vehicles, participating in Steadfast Defender 24. 2024 year marks the 75th anniversary of the NATO Alliance, and the scale of this exercise is showcased the Alliance's sheer strength and dominance to keep our one billion people safe.

The U.S. 2nd Fleet, reestablished in 2018 in response to the changing global security environment, develops and employs maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic to ensure access, deter aggression, and defend U.S., Allied, and partner interests.

U.S. Navy photos and b-roll are available on DVIDS. For more information, contact