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USS Mount Whitney, NATO's Joint Command Lisbon Wrap up Allied Action 05

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050602-04
Release Date: 6/2/2005 2:21:00 PM

From Joint Command Lisbon Public Affairs

ABOARD USS MOUNT WHITNEY (NNS) -- USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) and NATO’s Joint Command (JC) Lisbon teamed up May 17-June 1 to complete Allied Action 05, a two-week exercise conducted to certify the duo for its NATO Response Force (NRF) rotation from July 2005 to July 2006, and to validate the innovative sea-based Combined Joint Task Force capability.

The exercise took place in the western Mediterranean Sea and involved 23 NATO nations and seven Partnership for Peace countries. The objectives were to test doctrine, enhance interoperability, increase familiarization with NATO procedures, and provide exposure to individual nation’s capabilities. JC Lisbon, to be commanded by Vice Adm. John Stufflebeem after June 15, will now step to the plate July 1 for a year as the leader of NATO’s 9-1-1 contingent.

According to Portuguese Vice Adm. Fernando José Ribeiro de Melo Gomes, who commanded JC Lisbon during Allied Action 05, the exercise was successful on all accounts.

“We gained valuable experience from the joint perspective, but the most significant lesson we identified was the importance of cooperation and flexibility with the component commanders,” Melo Gomes said, referring to air, maritime and land forces also participating in the exercise. “Commanding the NRF will be a very challenging and demanding task - one that we have pursued since JC Lisbon was formed a year ago. We have given a great effort to be able to stand where we are today, and I think this exercise demonstrated we are ready.”

Allied Action 05 was Mount Whitney’s first full-scale exercise since leaving Norfolk, Va., in January to become the command ship for JC Lisbon, U.S. 6th Fleet, and Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO. The ship is now tied intimately to the NRF concept as well, poised for extended, short-notice employment in support of NATO operations if real-world events dictate a need.

“The exercise went well from our perspective,” said Capt. Charles Wheeler, commanding officer of Mount Whitney, “because we were able to give the embarked staff the services they needed. This mission for us was all about C4I and mobility. The crew worked extremely hard to provide better than 95 percent C4I reliability during the exercise, and we were able to move around on the water and provide the mobility expected from a sea-based task force.

“We now become the NATO Response Force flagship while JC Lisbon is the designated commander,” Wheeler continued. “We are placed on a tether which requires our ability to get underway from wherever we are, homeport or otherwise, and proceed at best speed to an area of responsibility for an embarkation or to Joint Command Lisbon to embark the staff to go affect real-world operations.”

During the exercise, the embarked staff of nearly 450 personnel faced a series of escalating scenarios and asymmetric challenges inherent to deployment in a fictional region plagued by ethnic strife and humanitarian crises. The timeline took participants from arrival in a volatile theater all the way to combat operations. Along the way, Allied Action 05 personnel were challenged by terrorist attacks on refugee camps, complex cooperation with international agencies and non-government organizations, fragile relationships with host nation representatives, and numerous other situations.

In addition to navigating through Allied Action 05, Mount Whitney crew members and staff personnel also had the opportunity to spend a few days in Barcelona, Spain, where they visited sites like La Rambla, Temple de la Sagrada Familia, and venues from the 1992 Summer Olympics. While the ship was in port, a constant flow of distinguished representatives and senior NATO officers boarded the ship for exercise briefs and firsthand looks at Mount Whitney’s capabilities.

Following the port visit, Mount Whitney conducted operations with the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Garibaldi, another participant in the exercise and visitor to Barcelona.

“We developed a tactical action plan for combined steaming with ITS Garibaldi,” Wheeler said. “We were able to effect joint helicopter support operations for logistics movements between the two vessels. Italian and U.S. pilots completed certification landings on each other’s flight decks.”

Mount Whitney will now return to its homeport in Gaeta, Italy, to begin preparation for embarkation by a U.S. Navy staff later in June. Despite some manning and training challenges, ship’s company is looking forward to its role with NATO.

“The crew is excited about their performance as it relates to the NATO mission,” he continued. “I continue to try to impress upon the crew, regardless of what the mission is, the need to drive themselves to optimum performance, and I think they’re doing that very well here.”

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