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USS Gonzalez, Moroccan Navy Steam Together for Exercise

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050430-04
Release Date: 4/30/2005 9:22:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class (SW) Robert Keilman, USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

ABOARD USS GONZALEZ, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) completed a combined international exercise with Hassan II (FFL 612) and Muhammed V (FFL 611) of the Moroccan Navy April 3-5.

The exercise was designed to promote cooperation and cultural exchange between the United States and Moroccan navies. A follow-on exercise is scheduled to include the Tunisian navy.

“The exercise is essentially for us to enhance our military-to-military relationships with countries from the Northern African region,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Griffin, Gonzalez’ commanding officer. “It’s been some time since we had the opportunity to work closely with these countries’ navies. This was an opportunity to refresh that type of relationship, and get the navies of our countries together to go out and do some basic exercises.”

Gonzalez conducted the exercise with the two Moroccan Floreal-class frigates off the coast of Morocco.

“We started off by joining them in a ship formation,” explained Griffin. “We then sent two of our officers over to the Hassan II by rigid hull inflatable boat and they sent us one of their officers, a chief petty officer and a petty officer.

“We conducted several maneuvers with them, as well as an underway replenishment exercise by using a light line transfer," Griffin said. "Their ships don’t have the capabilities to refuel each other, but they can pass cargo among themselves using a light line.”

On the light line was a small bag filled with small gifts of appreciation, such as hats, gift coins and Gonzalez logo pins.

Griffin added that Gonzalez conducted a second small boat transfer to recover their officers, as well as to return Hassan II’s crew members. After the recovery, Gonzalez assigned each of the Moroccan ships a search and rescue exercise where they recovered a downed pilot.

“This is just the first phase,” said Lt. Ben Vaughan, Gonzalez’ operations officer. “The next phase will involve another strike group next summer. The U.S. Navy hopes to expand these cooperative exercises next year with the Moroccan and other North African nations.”

“I think the exercise went great. I was very happy,” said Griffin. “I had never worked with Morocco before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Everything went very smoothly.”

Gonzalez is currently on its scheduled deployment with the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group in support of the global war on terrorism. As a participant in the Navy’s Sea Swap Program, the ship will stay deployed on station for 18 months, while the crew will serve for approximately six months. After the crew is relieved, they will fly back to the United States and be reassigned to another ship.

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