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USS Gonzalez Participates in Multinational Exercise Mavi Balina '08

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080321-06
Release Date: 3/21/2008 12:46:00 PM

By Ensign Jennifer Kerner, USS Gonzalez Public Affairs

USS GONZALEZ, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) joined the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) 2 to participate in the multinational exercise Mavi Balina '08 March 17-21.

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 Adm. Sinan Ertugrul, Turkish Navy, embarked on the flagship, TCG Salihreis. The ships of SNMG-2 are participating in the exercise at the invitation of the Turkish Navy.

One of the main objectives of Mavi Balina '08 is to provide operational training for units and staffs in planning and conducting anti-submarine and submarine warfare. This served as an opportunity for the Gonzalez team to hone their skills and knowledge of anti-submarine warfare in a complex multinational environment against patrolling and transiting submarines while standing by for real world tasking as part of the NATO Response Force. The training environment also integrated other requirements of surface units, such as defense against asymmetric threats.

Gonzalez was integral in leading an air defense exercise which provided effective training in the employment of anti-air weapons.

"This exercise was both fun and challenging," said Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Kevin Dion. "We were working with a whole new set of publications specific to NATO and ways of communicating than the United States Navy is accustomed to on a regular basis."

The Turkish fighter jet pilots worked well with Gonzalez' air controllers, who worked to maintain communications in a real-time environment. Later in the week, the air controllers worked with a helicopter from the Italian frigate ITS Euro to complete deck landing training and controlled approaches to Gonzalez' flight deck.

Gonzalez' visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team also had the opportunity to compare their force protection training methods with the other ships. The team completed a practice boarding of the Dutch oiler, HNLMS Amsterdam (A 836).

An exciting highlight of Mavi Balina '08 was for the gunner's mates of Gonzalez. In today's Navy, few gunner's mates will have the opportunity to train using anything other than water-based floating practice targets. However, the Turkish flagship TCG Salihreis (F-246) arranged for the ships of SNMG-2 to use an uninhabited island off the coast of Turkey for target practice, and Gonzalez shot her 5-inch 54-caliber gun at the island.

Torpedoman's Mate Seaman David Wilkens explained, "To shoot at this was a much higher quality of training than we usually have. I doubt I will ever be able to see this again."

After completing the training the exercise Gonzalez will make a port call to Antalya, Turkey.

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