USS Porter returns to Black Sea
NAPLES, Italy — For the second time this year, the guided-mission destroyer USS Porter transited the Turkish Straits to engage with Black Sea navies.
Planned engagements with Romania, Turkey, Georgia and Bulgaria will directly support U.S. European Command and U.S. Naval Forces Europe strategic priority of strengthening enduring partnerships in the region.
The commodore of Task Force 67, Navy Capt. Bob Lally, took tactical control of the destroyer and all U.S. naval activities in the Black Sea as the Porter headed for the straits from Souda Bay, Crete, April 2. This is the first time the task force, normally responsible for air operations, has had operational control of a surface ship.
Lally is excited and looking forward to the next few weeks.
"These are our new friends," Lally said of the countries his Sailors will be interacting with. "The excitement is because they invited us and want to engage with the U.S. Navy.
"Building new partnerships and strengthening existing ones, especially in this region, is extremely important in achieving our goals of greater maritime domain awareness and fostering an environment inhospitable to criminals and extremists," the commodore said.
The Black Sea, an important trade and military region since antiquity, is bordered by Turkey, Romania, Georgia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia.
This visit follows Porter's Black Sea trip in February, when the ship's crew conducted port visits and training in Romania and Ukraine. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Murzban Morris said this visit will challenge the ship's crew in several ways.
"The first is the pace of operations — we're basically doing one thing right after another, with very little dead time in between," he explained. "We're going to come in, and in an 18-day span, work with four different countries integrating, training and engaging with them both in the community as well as military-to-military."
Among the reasons for USS Porter's trip to visit Black Sea partners is to "let them meet and interact with U.S. Navy Sailors," Lally explained. "Every Sailor is an ambassador and is willing to do something positive."
USS Porter, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer home ported in Norfolk, Va., has been forward deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet since late November. Porter has been conducting operations in the Mediterranean and Black seas in support of maritime and theater security cooperation. The 507-foot-long ship weighs almost 9,000 tons and can exceed speeds of 30 knots. About 315 crewmembers serve aboard the ship that was commissioned in March of 1999 and can conduct air, surface and subsurface operations simultaneously.