NAPLES, Italy (NNS) - The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) departed the Black Sea Aug. 26, after a series of engagements in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Here are five things you need to know about Vella Gulf's time in the Black Sea:
1. This was Vella Gulf's third time in the Black Sea. She first entered the Black Sea May 23. She departed June 12, entered again July 7, and departed July 14 after participating in the Bulgarian-led exercise Breeze 2014. Her most recent period in the Black Sea began Aug. 6.
2. Vella Gulf's port visits in the region included: Varna and Burgas, Bulgaria; Constanta, Romania (twice) and Batumi, Georgia. Sailors had the opportunity to explore the local cultures, conducted community service projects and hosted ship tours.
3. Vella Gulf has participated in numerous exercises with NATO allies and partners in the Black Sea since May. In addition to Breeze 2014, Vella Gulf conducted separate bilateral engagements with the Romanian navy's frigate ROS Regina Maria (F 222) and the Turkish navy corvette TCG Bykada (F-512), a division tactics exercise with the Turkish navy fast attack craft TCG Tuzla (P 1200) and participated in Romanian navy day, which involved landing a Romanian navy SA-330 Puma helicopter on the flight deck. Vella Gulf also participated in a joint training exercise with the Georgian coast guard, following her departure from Batumi.
4. Vella Gulf hosted distinguished visitors including U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
Hagel, while speaking to Sailors over the ship's 1MC, June 5 in Constanta, said: "I want to thank all of you, especially with what you're doing on this mission particularly. As we partner with Romania and the rest of our NATO allies, I want all of you to know that I am proud of you, and the President of the United States is proud of you."
Garibashvili, in his speech to the crew in Batumi, said, "Partnership with the United States of America is one of the top priorities in our country's foreign policy. We prize the U.S. support of Georgia's sovereignty, territorial integrity, democratic development, and integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. The friendship and support of America is of utmost importance to us."
5. Vella Gulf and the U.S. Navy's presence in the Black Sea represents efforts by the United States to reaffirm its commitment to strengthening ties with NATO allies and partners, while working toward mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the region.
"It is important to support and reassure our partners, we hope our presence in the Black Sea continues to strengthen those bonds," said Vella Gulf's Commanding Officer Capt. Robert Katz.
Vella Gulf, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, returned to the Aegean Sea yesterday, where she is deployed in a multi-mission role in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to contribute to regional maritime security, conduct bilateral and multilateral training missions, and to support NATO operations and deployments throughout the region.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.