WASHINGTON — U.S. Navy 6th Fleet's commander reaffirmed the Navy's commitment to global alliances and ongoing maritime operations, specifically in the Europe-Africa region, during a media roundtable June 14 at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
"International partnering with our allies is an effort we've been committed to for a long time," said Navy Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. "It is critical to our safety and security. We're working and conducting exercises with our friends around the world to better understand how we both conduct business.
"Right now, we're performing an exercise called Baltic Operations 2010 (BALTOPS) which is a 6th Fleet combined maritime and land exercise in the Baltic Sea, involving our Sailors and Marines on the USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) and NATO forces of our coalition," said Harris. "We're doing an amphibious demonstration with the U.S. Marines in Estonia and a maritime pre-positioning force offload in Latvia. The mission is to promote mutual understanding, confidence and cooperation."
Harris was also pleased to report that deployed carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) recently celebrated the French navy's 100 year anniversary of naval aviation.
Harris said his attention is focused on France and other allied European nations and their assistance in ensuring maritime safety and security of African waters.
"Our big center piece on the Africa side is Africa Partnership Station. There are economical problems there, which are historically complex, particularly with the coastal states of Africa; however, they're not insurmountable," said Harris. "It's mainly a case of sea blindness where a lot of the African countries tend to look inward toward the land versus outward to the sea. As a result, they're losing billions annually in fishing and counter narcotic trafficking. The time for action is now, and we're very pleased with the results we're seeing long-term."
Harris admits that the most critical element isn't aircraft carriers and air wings; it's the Navy's credibility.
"What we maintain in U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa is that you cannot surge trust. It only comes after years of cooperative experience held together by common vision and reliability" said Harris. "And that's what we're all about."
Sixth Fleet is located at Naval Support Activity Copodochino in Naples, Italy. Mount Whitney, which is currently deployed in support of BALTOPS 2010, is the flagship for 6th Fleet.
Sixth Fleet also embarked its fifth partnership exercises in support of Eurasia, entitled Capstone in the Black Sea, along with ongoing procedure interdiction operations with allied Adriatic countries called Partnership of Adriatic Marines.