Umm Qasr, IRAQ (NNS) -- The Avenger-class mine countermeasure ship USS Scout (MCM 8) pulled into port in Umm Qasr, Iraq, June 30.
This visit was the first made by a U.S. Navy ship since the port transitioned to Iraqi control which marks a major step in the process of building a strong and independent Iraqi maritime force.
"Today was pretty significant," said Lt. Cmdr. Vic Sheldon, Scout's executive officer. "Just having an Iraqi patrol boat come alongside on our way into port and provide security was pretty amazing to see."
As U.S. combat troops withdraw from Iraq, the Scout's arrival in Umm Qasr illustrated the stabilization taking place in Iraq.
"Two Iraqi naval officers boarded Scout prior to our arrival and helped us navigate," said Sheldon. "This act alone shows Iraq's readiness to do what it takes to make things happen on their own."
After making port, Iraqi navy sailors visited Scout for a tour. Sailors from both countries also participated in sporting activities.
"Today's bilateral exchange visit [helps] the normalization of ties between the Iraqi Navy [and] U.S. Navy," said Cmdr. Chip Wrye, executive officer, Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission (ITAM) in Umm Qasr. "We believe this is another step in making Umm Qasr a port we routinely visit just like any other foreign port in the world."
Port visits at Umm Qasr in the past have been largely coordinated by coalition forces at ITAM.
"The ultimate goal for us and the Iraqi Navy is for them to be able to complete their missions," said Wrye. "Whether that means protecting their ports, oil platforms or territorial waters or simply providing the hospitality they did today, we strive towards that end."
ITAM, which is an integral part of the Multi National Security Transition Command – Iraq, plays a key role in developing and mentoring Iraqi sailors and marines. Team members work alongside their Iraqi counterparts on a daily basis and are responsible for ensuring that the Iraqi forces are in a position to provide security for Iraq's territorial waters, ports and two major offshore oil platforms, which generate approximately 80 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.