UMM QASR, Iraq (NNS) -- USS Chinook (PC 9) departed Umm Qasr, Iraq, March 25, marking the first overnight port visit to Iraq by a U.S. ship.
"The U.S. Navy has operated in the region for more than 60 years, and Chinook's visit marks the first time a U.S. ship has remained overnight in Iraq; that's extremely significant," said Rear Adm. T.C. Cropper, deputy commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT).
"Chinook's visit exemplifies the great confidence we have in our Iraqi partners and reflects the excellent improvements in security that they have achieved. It also demonstrates our commitment and partnership with the Government of Iraq, its people and the Iraqi Navy."
While in port, the ship's crewmembers were able to participate in friendship-building activities with several senior Iraqi officers as well as conduct a logistics' replenishment, where the ship took on fuel and other various supplies.
"This is an important day for us and for Iraq," said Lt. Allen Maxwell, Chinook's commanding officer.
"Our visit gave us a chance to interact with senior Iraqi Navy leadership and further enhance cooperation with the Iraqi Navy and Marines. Today was an extraordinary opportunity, and I am proud to have made a positive difference in Iraq's future."
USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309)'s daylight-only port visit to Umm Qasr Dec. 15, 2008, marked the last visit by a U.S. ship to the Iraqi port. Cropper was pierside for Chinook's arrival to Umm Qasr and said he hopes more coalition ships will visit the Iraqi port in the months and years to come.
"Visits like this are important because they help reinforce the strong ties that already exist between our two navies," said Cmdr. Thomas Cawley, NAVCENT's country engagement officer to Iraq.
Coalition maritime forces in the North Arabian Gulf maintain a naval and air presence to safeguard the region's vital links to the global economy. These key maritime infrastructure nodes are the foundation for the region's economic growth, stability and prosperity as well as significantly impact the global economy.
"Our forces are here to foster security and cooperation in the region and conduct operations that contribute to peace and stability," said Cropper. "U.S. and coalition forces provide the assurance of security and stability that enables the economic development and growing prosperity throughout this region."
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.