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Secretary of The Navy Visits Hampton Roads

14 March 2023

From Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro visited the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, March 10, to recognize commands and Sailors who supported recovery of a high-altitude surveillance balloon.

At the direction of the President of the United States and with the full support of the Government of Canada, a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor under U.S. Northern Command authority engaged and brought down a high-altitude surveillance balloon within sovereign U.S. airspace and over U.S. territorial waters, Feb. 4.

Del Toro met with Sailors from Carter Hall, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 2, EODMU 6, EODMU 12, EOD Expeditionary Support Unit 2, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4, and U.S. 2nd Fleet.

“I wanted to take the time to thank each and every one of you for the professionalism and Navy expertise you provided during the recovery and collection of the surveillance balloon that was shot down,” Del Toro said. “Whether you supported in an aerial, subsurface, or surface capacity, your efforts greatly contributed to our national security objectives, and you should all be proud in the roles filled and the speed in which you accomplished them.”

The joint response effort, directed by U.S. Northern Command to U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command/U.S. Fleet Forces Command, was led by U.S. 2nd Fleet as Maritime Command Element - East.

“I am impressed by the professionalism displayed at every level of this recovery effort,” said Vice Adm. Daniel Dwyer, commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Their incredible effort, agility and speed of response, showed the inherent maneuverability and adaptability for Naval Forces to work together seamlessly to ensure our homeland remains safe.”

During the response effort, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command employed explosive ordnance disposal technicians, Navy divers and unmanned systems operators to locate and recover debris that spanned roughly 4 miles.

Carter Hall served as the lead U.S. Navy ship, under command and control of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28. Guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) provided additional surface support and maintained visual contact on debris.

“As a ship captain I really cannot be prouder of our men and women,” said Cmdr. Brad Fancher, Carter Hall commanding officer. “There were a lot of eyes on this recovery mission – not just from the Navy, but from around the world. They were well aware and stepped up when it counted most.”  

Prior to the balloon’s interdiction, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted radio broadcasts to advise mariners of the impending security zone. Following the balloon’s impact with the water, the Coast Guard aided in locating debris, providing search and rescue assets, and in enforcing the security zone around the area.  

U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and airplanes from Air Station Elizabeth City and Air Station Savannah, response boats from Coast Guard Station Georgetown, S.C., supported the joint effort. USCGC Venturous (WMEC 625), USCGC Richard Snyder (WPC 1127), USCGC Nathan Bruckenthal (WPC 1128), and USCGC Yellowfin (WPB 87319) enforced a security zone around the debris field.

U.S. Navy Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron (VP) 8 and Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 provided aerial support, delivering critical information to NECC forces during every phase of the operation.

After debris was recovered, it was brought to Carter Hall aboard landing craft, air cushion from ACU 4 where it was placed in custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in concert with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Before departing Hampton Roads, Del Toro also visited with Sailors assigned to HM-15 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 to thank them for their support to the high-altitude surveillance balloon recovery effort and the human space flight program respectively.

“It’s not easy, what you all do and train for each and every day, but you were ready to respond when called upon and took immense pride in the mission, playing an integral part in the collection of the balloon. Your professionalism and agility represents all in the aviation community,” Del Toro said.

U.S. 2nd Fleet, reestablished in 2018, exercises command and control of mission-ready forces to deter and defeat potential adversaries, defend maritime avenues of approach between North America and Europe, and strengthen our ability to operate with Allies and partners in competition and conflict.


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