ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- The commander of U.S. Navy Forces Central Command visited his task force commander aboard the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) Dec. 19, highlighting a crucial international partnership as well as the increasing importance of maritime cooperation in the fight against ISIL.
Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, the NAVCENT commander, met with French Rear Adm. Rene-Jean Crignola and other senior leadership aboard Charles de Gaulle to discuss operations and the way ahead in the fight against violent extremism.
Crignola, embarked aboard the French carrier, is commanding U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's Task Force 50, which plans and conducts coalition strike operations in the Middle East. Since taking the helm on Dec. 7, the Charles de Gaulle Carrier Battle Group has been serving as the flagship of Task Force 50 and leading naval strike operations for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) - the fight to degrade and ultimately destroy the ISIL terrorist organization.
This represents the first time the French have taken command of a U.S. Navy task force, a development that illustrates the two countries' shared commitment to security in the region, as well as amplifies the interoperability of the partners' maritime capabilities during conflict.
Donegan said the decision to put the French - and Crignola in particular - in charge of this carrier strike force was a simple one to make.
"(Crignola) was the commander of Combined Task Force 150, the Combined Maritime Forces task force responsible for maritime security and counter terrorism earlier this year. He impressed us with his leadership and overwhelming aptitude with the mission of CTF 150, to promote maritime security in order to counter terrorist acts and related terrorist activities. He was the perfect choice to take on this important and historic command role.
"Interoperability in a forward deployed environment takes time to develop, and now we see the fruits of our shared labor. U.S. and French Navy forces have forged an alliance that has made our countries a more formidable fighting force than either could be alone." said Donegan. "With Rear Adm. Crignola leading a task force that includes the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and six escorts from four countries,
I'm confident we'll achieve our objectives in this campaign."
The U.S. Navy's enduring forward presence in the waters of the Middle East and the continual interaction with allies and partners played a role in enabling the French to seamlessly join the NAVCENT command structure.
This is the French Navy's third deployment in two years in this area of operations. Each time, they've built upon their experience with interoperability with a U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group.
France accepted the U.S. proposal to assume Task Force 50 duty, ensuring a presence in the region to defend allies' interests in the struggle against violent extremism, and projecting power in support of OIR.
"We are making a step forward regarding interoperability building between our navies. One cannot always imagine all the dedicated and patient common work that was necessary throughout the years to reach such a result." said Crignola. "We must also pay tribute to all carrier strike group commanders who definitely played a major part for years in the process."
Crignola's leadership of NAVCENT Task Force 50 represents the culmination of years of combined trainings and exercises meant to deepen operational relationships with America's French allies. The countries' longstanding partnership predates the current terrorist threat, but is showing its immense benefits now more than ever.
Escorting Charles de Gaulle are the French air defense destroyer Chevalier Paul (D621); the French anti-submarine frigate La Motte-Picquet (D645); the Belgian anti-submarine frigate Leopold Ier (F930); the German anti-submarine frigate Augsburg (F213); the French command and supply ship Marne (A630); and a French nuclear attack submarine.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command is responsible for approximately 2.5 million square miles of area including the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. NAVCENT's mission is to conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthen partner nation's maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.