USS PHILIPPINE SEA, At Sea (NNS) -- Guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) departed the 6th Fleet area of operations Nov. 11 after its scheduled Black Sea deployment, concluding three weeks serving as goodwill ambassadors of the U.S.
During the deployment, Philippine Sea made scheduled port visits to Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Throughout these visits, the crew participated in community service projects, trained with local military and hosted receptions aboard the ship for local military and civilian leadership, all in an effort to promote peace and stability in the Black Sea region.
"These port visits were great strides in the direction of our maritime partnership in the Black Sea," said Capt. Steve Shinego, Philippine Sea's commanding officer. "We were given a unique opportunity to be great ambassadors for the U.S., while also given the opportunity to share our knowledge and skill as Sailors. [This] helps build a long-lasting friendship with the host nations through multiple community service projects and receptions."
Shinego emphasized the value the U.S. places on its military partnerships in the Black Sea region. In June, the guided-missile cruisers USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Anzio (CG 68) along with other U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel and 11 other countries visited the Black Sea region for exercise Sea Breeze.
"These exercises improve maritime safety, security and stability in the Black Sea by enhancing the capabilities of Black Sea regional maritime security forces," said Shinego.
A notable part of Philippine Sea's deployment was embarking four Bulgarian sailors aboard the ship for two weeks of at-sea training. The training was designed to give the Bulgarian sailors a better understanding of how the U.S. Navy conducts operations underway.
"By having the Bulgarians aboard the ship, they received a first-hand perspective of the professional relationships between the junior officers, chief petty officers, and the crew," said Lt. Kent Bubel, 6th Fleet Maritime Partnership Program coordinator aboard Philippine Sea. "Here, they can witness a successful operational environment where the senior enlisted [Sailors] and junior officers have a tremendous amount of responsibility and work together to accomplish the mission."
The Bulgarians' visit to the ship was part of the U.S. 6th Fleet Maritime Partnership Program, which is designed to develop and sustain relationships with maritime forces of the U.S. European Command area of responsibility theater security cooperation strategy.
"By observing the basic shipboard operations, we can take back the knowledge we gained and share it with our sailors in the Bulgarian navy," said Bulgarian navy Lt. Dimitar Haidutov.
Philippine Sea conducted bilateral training with foreign militaries throughout its deployment, focusing on ship boarding operations, shipboard damage control, and basic small-boat operation and repair.
Aside from training and community service projects, the ship also held an at-sea change of command where Capt. Herbert Hadley was relieved by Capt. Steve Shinego.
During the ceremony, Hadley talked about how this ship and its deployment would more than likely be his last sea tour with the U.S. Navy.
"Honestly, I couldn't think of any ship or crew I would have rather spent it with," said Hadley. "I would like to thank each and every one of you for the unwavering support you have given me over and over during my time aboard."
Philippine Sea Sailors also spent time during the port visits conducting community service projects, like a basketball game and a beach clean up with local residents from Batumi, Georgia. The crew also experienced local Bulgarian cuisine and exchanged culinary skills with students from a local culinary class.
"It's always great when we can share knowledge with the host country, as there is always something for us to learn from them," said Philippine Sea Command Master Chief Roy Hooper.
Leadership from 6th Fleet headquarters in Naples, Italy, stressed the value of the actions and responsibilities of Philippine Sea during deployment.
"U.S. Navy guided missile cruisers are multimission platforms which are capable of performing myriad tasks, including maritime security operations, humanitarian missions, bilateral and multi-lateral training exercises, and NATO operations and deployments, including missile defense," said Capt. Dan Shaffer, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 60. "Just as important, the crew of Philippine Sea engaged our friends and allies on the most important level of all - Sailor to Sailor."
Philippine Sea was on a scheduled deployment in the Black Sea to promote peace and stability in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.