USS Gonzalez Participates in NATO/Israeli Navy Exercise

Story Number: NNS080425-10Release Date: 4/25/2008 10:43:00 AM
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By Ensign Jennifer Kerner, USS Gonzalez Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- The Norfolk-based guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) participated in a combined NATO/Israeli navy exercise as part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) 2, March 6.

Gonzalez, commanded by Cmdr. Brian Fort, is on a routine deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and joined the ships of SNMG-2. In addition to Gonzalez, SNMG-2 is currently comprised of warships from Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Greece.

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 (F 246).

During the NATO/Israeli exercise, SNMG-2 ships conducted several at-sea and in-port training events with the Israeli Navy. For the underway exercises, the Gonzalez, Turkish frigate Salihreis, and Greek frigate Hydra participated in a search and rescue exercise with the INS Lahav (502) and INS Keshet. Upon completion, the five ships conducted close-order tactical maneuvering drills and a tactical communications exercise. After the underway events, the ships of SNMG-2 moored in Haifa, Israel, for four days.

Gonzalez Damage Control Assistant Lt. j.g. Mary Scott said Gonzalez held a damage control exhibition for more than 50 Israeli Sailors, including equipment demonstrations on the ship's flight deck and an internal fire fighting drill while in port.

"The United States Navy has made damage control a huge priority and I think foreign navies admire this and want to learn more about the successes we have had in this field," she said.

Gonzalez also hosted 60 Israeli Sailors for general tours, and several Gonzalez Sailors visited Israeli ships. Gonzalez Sailors also joined their NATO shipmates in friendly soccer, basketball, and volleyball competitions against Israeli Sailors. These events provided excellent opportunities for the Sailors from other countries to come together professionally and socially, share ideas, and build a sense of fellowship.

Fort said the commanding officers of the NATO ships also attended a wreath laying ceremony with Ertugrul at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

"I cannot imagine a more endearing moment for this deployment than the opportunity I had to see the admiral represent NATO at Yad Vashem," Fort said. "After the wreath laying ceremony as we toured the Children's Memorial, I couldn't help but notice that as we passed through and listened to the names of children being read aloud that the last name we heard was that of a 16-year old Turkish girl key who died in a concentration camp. With Adm. Ertugrul being from Turkey, it was indeed a powerful moment for all of us."

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