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Ships Return From UNITAS Deployment

Navy Newsstand

12/11/2002 9:43:00 AM

From Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The more than 300 Sailors assigned to Little Creek, Va.-based dock-landing ship USS Portland (LSD 37) returned to their home port Dec. 6 after a four-month deployment in support of the multinational naval exercise UNITAS.

Overcoming the challenges posed by integrating 12 surface combatants, two submarines, and several helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from six different nations was the hallmark of UNITAS. But the cooperative spirit of the participants meant the challenges were met.

"The navies are very similar in a lot of ways," said Portland Commanding Officer Cmdr. Larry Creevy. "In fact, I think a lot of the South American navies have adapted a lot of our procedures and tactics, as well as customs, and we've adopted some of theirs."

Hosted by the Brazilian Navy, naval forces from Argentina, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States engaged in exercises designed to improve interoperability and foster understanding among the naval forces of the participant nations.

Rear Adm. Vinson E. Smith, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, commands the UNITAS task force and is in charge of all U.S. naval forces participating in the three phases of the annual exercise.

Portland, along with the embarked 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, took part in the amphibious phase, which was conducted with several South American nations during the ship's four-month deployment.

The United States was represented by two additional surface fleet Atlantic ships, Pascagoula, Miss.-based guided-missile cruiser USS Thomas S. Gates (CG 51), and Mayport, Fla.,-based guided-missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG 56).

Other Navy units included P-3C aircraft from Patrol Squadrons 92 and 61, two SH-60B helicopter detachments, a Fleet Maritime Patrol Mobile Operations Control Center, a detachment from Fleet Composite Squadron 6 and a communications assistance team.

Under the operational command of Capt. James L. Martin, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 6, the U.S. task group engaged in training and operations in a wide range of war-fighting disciplines with their South American counterparts.

"The operations covered in the UNITAS Atlantic phase presented a great opportunity for participants to operate and train in a multi-ship environment," said Martin. "It's not just the surface portion, but also submarine and air exercises to keep the crews focused on warfighting skills not normally exercised in this area of the world."

More than 60 operational events were completed during UNITAS Atlantic Phase. Each event was designed by naval experts from all nations involved to resemble to real-world situations.

"The Brazilian navy was a great host and put together an excellent schedule of events," said Martin. "This phase of UNITAS was extremely beneficial for the defense cooperation among all the participating countries."

After 59 years of existence, UNITAS, the premiere naval exercise in the region, continues to be a uniting force, bringing nations together to enhance the region defense and military interoperability.

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