USS NEW ORLEANS, At Sea (NNS) -- USS New Orleans (LPD 18), Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5 and other embarked units arrived in Balboa, Panama, Aug. 20 as the final stop in support of Amphibious-Southern Partnership Station (A-SPS) 2010.
A-SPS is the amphibious portion of Southern Partnership Station, which is a deployment of various specialty platforms to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of responsibility in Latin America and the Caribbean.
A-SPS's primary goal is mission-focused information sharing with navies, coast guards and civilian services throughout the region in order to enhance regional maritime capabilities and security.
The port visit to Panama marks the end of a three-month deployment in support of USSOUTHCOM's goals of ensuring theater security, enhancing regional stability and strengthening relationships among regional partners. The ship and embarked units visited Manzanillo, Mexico; Lima, Peru; and Bahia Malaga, Colombia.
The visit is scheduled as a liberty port, and the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation team has scheduled tours including scuba diving, deep sea fishing, cultural outings and an opportunity to transit a small part of the Panama Canal.
PHIBRON 5 Commodore, Capt. Peter J. Brennan, A-SPS mission commander, will fly home to San Diego for a change of command ceremony Aug. 22. Brennan will be relieved by Capt. Humberto L. Quintanilla at the ceremony.
"This deployment has been very rewarding," said Brennan. "We've worked closely with Sailors and Marines from Mexico, Central America and South America, and we've learned a lot from each other. This interaction through subject matter exchanges, community relations projects and social functions, have provided the opportunity to strengthen our relationships and in turn, strengthen the stability of the region. I am very happy to be ending my tour of duty with PHIBRON 5 on such a positive note."
Throughout the deployment, New Orleans has been conducting exercises and multinational exchanges with Mexico, Peru and Colombia to build on relationships built through previous Southern Partnership Station deployments. In addition to subject matter exchanges, the ship conducted humanitarian and civic assistance through community relations projects and Project Handclasp deliveries throughout the region.
Service members from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay deployed with New Orleans in order to facilitate interaction between their navies and the U.S. Navy through subject matter exchanges and interaction. This has been accomplished through presentations, personal interaction and hands-on, joint exercises. They boarded the ship in San Diego June 10, with most departing in Peru. Those from Colombia remained on board until after the ship departed its recent port visit to Bahia Malaga, Colombia.
"I think this is one of the best ideas our commanders have had," said Colombian navy Lt. Cmdr. Luis Pulgarin. "It is so important that the U.S. and South American navies work together because it is one region...America...and we need to be able to share experiences and work together, because it will help us all to stay secure. At this moment, the United States and Colombia are both combating terrorism, and we need to work together. It is very important."
During the final two weeks in Colombia, New Orleans conducted counter illicit-trafficking operations. The ship and embarked units patrolled off the coast with a Colombian liaison naval officer on board. The ship was prepared to work in concert with Colombian and Panamanian forces in the event any illegal traffickers were found.
Subject matter exchanges, including damage control, firefighting, engineering and medical processes, took place aboard New Orleans and on shore in each country. In addition, New Orleans, along with partner nations and Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 24 participated in both Partnership of the Americas 2010 and Southern Exchange 2010 in support of A-SPS, conducting joint amphibious operations in Salinas and Ancon, Peru.
USS New Orleans will return to its homeport of San Diego after leaving Panama.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.