The U.S. Navy Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) returned to its forward-deployed location of Gaeta, Italy, July 1, following a six-week underway period in support of exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2020 in the Baltic Sea.
BALTOPS is an annual maritime exercise designed to enhance interoperability, flexibility, and demonstrate resolve among allied and partner forces in defending the Baltic region. Twenty-eight air and 28 maritime assets from 17 NATO and two partner nations participated in the live training event that began June 7.
This year marked the sixth Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO)-led BALTOPS and the first entirely maritime exercise, which ensured the health and safety precautions for all participating forces during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am immensely proud of this hybrid Navy and Military Sealift Command crew,” said Capt. Dave Pollard, commanding officer of Mount Whitney. “I’m truly proud to be Team 20’s captain. The men and women of USS Mount Whitney performed admirably over the last six weeks.”
Mount Whitney got underway from Gaeta, Italy, May 18 after a 17-day pre-movement sequester that was designed to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 to the crew. This restriction of movement period, though challenging, helped the crew manage potential exposure.
Capt. Cassidy Norman, commanding officer of Mount Whitney until his change of command during the underway, said he was proud of the crew’s adaptation to this challenging pandemic environment.
“Throughout human history, successful military operations have often involved adaptation and innovation, and we have done that here on Mount Whitney,” said Norman. “We all had to react to this unexpected situation in ways we could never have imagined and in a lot of ways have never trained for.”
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.