Naples December 20, 2014 - USS Vicksburg (CG 69) relieved USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) as the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) 2 flagship in the Port of Naples.
Vicksburg, homeported in Mayport, Fla., departed North America Dec. 4 on a regularly scheduled deployment to serve as the SNMG2 flagship, and support NATO tasking. The ship recently participated in Joint Warrior 14-2, a United Kingdom (UK)-led multinational exercise, and earned her Independent Deployer Certification during the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's (MEU) Composite Training Unit Exercise.
“It is a unique opportunity to work for NATO and we are very honoured and excited to be serving as the flagship of this maritime group,” said Capt. Lyle Hall. “My sailors have worked tirelessly to ensure that they and the ship are at the highest possible standards of training and readiness.”
Vicksburg will take over Leyte Gulf’s responsibilities as SNMG2 flagship, performing as a command center for the group as it supports NATO’s Maritime Command. SNMG2 is available to NATO to participate in NATO and allied-led exercises designed to enhance the Alliance’s maritime capabilities, readiness, and interoperability, and support real world operations, like Operation Active Endeavour (OAE), NATO’s maritime mission to combat terrorist activities in the Mediterranean region.
Vicksburg’s assignment as SNMG2 flagship is part of the U.S.’s year-long commitment to lead one of NATO’s naval response force groups.
Leyte Gulf, commanded by Capt. Dean Rawls, formally detached from SNMG2 after more than six months as the group’s flagship. During this time, she completed three transatlantic crossings, five multinational exercises with allied countries, and multiple OAE surges.
“Leyte Gulf has every reason to be proud of the stellar performance exhibited during this deployment,” said Commander, SNMG2, Rear Adm. Brad Williamson. “The captain and his crew accomplished a great deal as SNMG2’s flagship. I wish them the best as they sail home from here and will remain grateful for their service to the Alliance.”
Upon completion of the handover, Leyte Gulf will return to her homeport of Norfolk, Va. The crew will enjoy some well-deserved time off before the ship undergoes scheduled maintenance and repairs.