USS Mount Whitney visits Varna on course for Black Sea Partnership cruise

VARNA, Bulgaria — The U.S. Sixth Fleet flagship USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) arrived here Nov. 8, 2008, to officially begin the multinational Black Sea Partnership Cruise (BSPC), set to commence Nov. 10.

"It is a privilege to be operating in the Black Sea again," said Navy Commodore John W. Moore, Commander, Task Force Six Seven. "The humbling experience I had delivering humanitarian aid to the Georgian people, and the engagement opportunities I've had with other Black Sea nations have reinforced my understanding of the significant impact our partnerships have, both personally and professionally. The Black Sea Partnership Cruise is a key gateway for these relationships to flourish."

Sixty-five representatives from Azerbaijan; Bulgaria; Estonia; Georgia; Greece; Latvia; Lithuania; Poland; Romania; Ukraine; and the United States will come together to participate in the six-day, at-sea, interactive trainer. USS Mount Whitney will serve as the BSPC underway training platform.

"By having all these sailors from different nations attending BSPC, we will give them common ground and common knowledge to work with, so if they do find themselves working with each other in the theater, they can look back at what they learned here and work together on a real-world situation," said Greek Army Warrant Officer Nikolaos Bouras, a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure instructor for BSPC.

The 2nd annual BSPC is an event intended to strengthen ongoing partnerships and increase interoperability with Black Sea nations by presenting practical, hands-on workshops and classes designed to facilitate maritime safety and security. The at-sea period will include workshops for helicopter control operations, junior officer and noncommissioned officer development, interoperability discussions, and an oil spill containment scenario.

Additional topics to be covered during the cruise are humanitarian assistance; maritime domain awareness; navigation; rules of engagement; law of the sea; piracy; counter narcotics; visit, board, search and seizure; and customs enforcement.

Varna is the third Black Sea engagement in one week for the Mount Whitney, following stops in Constanta, Romania and Sevastopol, Ukraine. Mount Whitney, homeported in Gaeta, Italy, is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the Black Sea.

U.S. Sixth Fleet assets routinely operate in the Black Sea to further develop partnerships, enhance interoperability, and promote regional maritime safety and security.

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