Thursday, June 26, 2008

USS Gonzalez Joins Standing NATO Maritime Group Two and Makes a Port Visit to Aksaz, Turkey

The Norfolk-based guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) joined the ships of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG-2) on March 6, 2008 while deployed to the 6th Fleet Area of Operations. In addition to Gonzalez, SNMG-2 is currently comprised of warships from Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Netherlands. SNMG-2’s mission is to provide an operationally ready force while serving as part of the Standing Maritime Element for the NATO Response Force (NRF). The SNMG-2 Task Force is commanded by Rear Admiral Sinan Ertugrul, Turkish Navy, embarked on the flagship, TCG Salihreis. Upon reporting for duty, Gonzalez refueled with the Dutch oiler, HNLMS Amsterdam, and then made a port visit with the other SNMG-2 ships to Aksaz, Turkey in support of exercise Mavi Balina 08.

Exercise Mavi Balina 08 is a Combined Multinational Exercise designed to provide an advanced training opportunity in the various aspects of undersea warfare and submarine to submarine operations in a multinational, intense and complex environment and to improve cooperation and interoperability between the participating units. The ships of SNMG-2 are participating in the exercise at the invitation of the Turkish Navy. In addition to attending pre-sail conferences and syndicate meeting associated with the exercise, the Commanding Officer of Gonzalez, Commander Brian Fort, attended a reception onboard the Pakistani Naval Ship, PNS Tariq. PNS Tariq and PNS Moawin also arrived in Aksaz with the SNMG-2 ships and will join up the force again in Antalya, Turkey at the end of the exercise. Members of the Gonzalez Wardroom and Chiefs Mess also attended a reception onboard the Turkish ship, TCG Kemalreis, which is serving as Flagship for the opposition force during Mavi Balina-08.

While in Aksaz, Gonzalez Sailors enjoyed playing soccer and basketball with Sailors from other SNMG-2 ships. Gonzalez Sailors held their own in basketball, but succumbed to the excellent and fancy footwork of their NATO friends. Most importantly, engagement on the sporting field helped build a sense of camaraderie and fellowship among all players. Gonzalez Sailors also enjoyed liberty in Aksaz and MWR-sponsored trips to Marmaris and the ancient ruins at Ephesus. LTJG Per Lindstrand said, “Ephesus embodied the Turkish identity of East meeting West. The whole crew was amazed by the rich heritage and history of the Turkish culture.”

After departing Aksaz, the ships of SNMG-2 began the underway portion of Exercise Mavi Balina 08. In the final phase of the exercise, the SNMG-2 ships will make a port call in Antalya, Turkey. Gonzalez departed Norfolk on 19 February and expects to return from their routine six-month deployment in August 2008.

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