Forces participating in Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014, including the U.S. 6th Fleet command and control ship, 'USS Mount Whitney' (LCC20), have arrived in Kiel, Germany, after the successful completion of the multi-nation exercise in the Baltic Sea.
BALTOPS is an annual, multinational exercise to enhance maritime capabilities, interoperability and support regional stability. This year's BALTOPS, the 42nd since 1971's inaugural exercise, saw the participation of naval forces from 14 countries including Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and NATO.
"Coming together for BALTOPS was like climbing a mountain, we have come to the top and planted the BALTOPS flag," said Brig. Gen. Ola Truedsson, BALTOPS deputy commander, speaking to the task force staff just prior to pulling into port.
"What I can remember of previous exercises is that it was never as big and as impressive as it is now," said Royal Netherlands Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Vandergeest, current operations planner for BALTOPS 2014.
Vandergeest would know, as this is marked the fourth time he has participated in the exercise. "Working in an exercise with so many ships from different nations - I wrote to my wife the other day and told her, 'you know this is probably my professional highlight'," said Vandergeest.
Planning the largest naval exercise in the Baltic region began in September of last year, leading up to the official kick off in Karlskrona, Sweden; where, following a face-to-face pre mission brief, participating navies set sail for nearly two weeks of interoperability training.
Vice Adm. Phil Davidson, 6th fleet commander, called BALTOPS 2014 a complete success and stressed the importance of the annual exercise.
"This year's exercise was dynamic and challenging, including a full spectrum of operations - and it was designed to ensure that, as allies and partners, we are prepared to respond where it matters, when it matters. And it matters here in the Baltic," said Davidson.