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Press Releases

USS Gunston Hall Departs Norfolk for NATO Exercise, Steadfast Defender 2024

by U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs
25 January 2024

The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) departed Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 24, for Steadfast Defender 2024, NATO’s largest exercise in decades.

Photo by MC2 Manvir Gill
The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), departed Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 24, 2024 commencing operations for Steadfast Defender 2024, NATO's largest excercise in decades. Steadfast Defender will demonstrate NATO's ability to deploy forces rapidly from across the Alliance to reinforce the defense of Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Manvir Gill)
Photo by MC2 Manvir Gill
240124-N-IO903-1003
The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), departed Naval Station Norfolk, Jan. 24, 2024 commencing operations for Steadfast Defender 2024, NATO's largest excercise in decades. Steadfast Defender will demonstrate NATO's ability to deploy forces rapidly from across the Alliance to reinforce the defense of Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Manvir Gill)
Photo By: Petty Officer 3rd Class Manvir G
VIRIN: 240124-N-IO903-1003

Exercise Steadfast Defender will involve approximately 90,000 forces from 31 Allies and Sweden.

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danielle Serocki
SLIDESHOW | 7 images | 240124-N-HD110-0076 NORFOLK, Va. (Jan. 24, 2024) Sailors assigned to the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) man the rails as the ship departs Norfolk, Va., Jan. 24, to participate in Steadfast Defender 2024. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danielle Serocki/Released)

Steadfast Defender 2024 will validate NATO’s ability to deploy forces rapidly from North America and other parts of the Alliance to reinforce the defense of Europe, and it will showcase NATO’s ability to conduct and sustain complex multi-domain operations over several months, across thousands of miles, and in any conditions, from the High North to Central and Eastern Europe.

“The departure and transit signify the first tactical movements of the exercise and demonstrate the strength of the trans-Atlantic link,” said Vice Adm. Doug Perry, commander, Joint Force Command Norfolk and U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Working with our Allies and partners, Gunston Hall will embark Swedish and Finnish forces who will conduct amphibious landings throughout Norway. I am also sending a contingent of my U.S. 2nd Fleet staff to Norway to command and control NATO maritime forces as Task Force North. These efforts clearly demonstrate North America’s commitment to NATO.”

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danielle Serocki
NORFOLK, Va. (Jan. 24, 2024) The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) departs Norfolk, Va., Jan. 24, to participate in Steadfast Defender 2024. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danielle Serocki/Released)
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danielle Serocki
240124-N-HD110-0102
NORFOLK, Va. (Jan. 24, 2024) The Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) departs Norfolk, Va., Jan. 24, to participate in Steadfast Defender 2024. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danielle Serocki/Released)
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danielle Serocki
VIRIN: 240124-N-HD110-0102

For the last several years, Joint Force Command Norfolk and U.S. 2nd Fleet joined other NATO commands planning Steadfast Defender 24.

“The Alliance will demonstrate its ability to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area via trans-Atlantic movement of forces from North America,” said Gen. Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe. “Steadfast Defender 2024 will be a clear demonstration of our unity, strength, and determination to protect each other, our values and the rules-based international order.”

Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. David J. Patchell, vice commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, who will be forward-deployed supporting the exercise, visited Gunston Hall days prior to the ship’s departure to discuss the upcoming NATO exercise and its importance to U.S. 2nd Fleet’s readiness to defend Allies and partners.

“This crew’s preparations and their journey across the Atlantic represent the starting point of this historic NATO exercise,” Patchell said. “Demonstrating NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America and other parts of the Alliance, Gunston Hall will represent the U.S. Navy and is an essential element of the multinational NATO amphibious force.”

Gunston Hall is one of the most versatile amphibious platforms in the U.S. Navy. With two large helicopter landing pads, the largest well deck in the fleet and troop berthing facilities, she has the ability to embark a diverse array of military forces, including NATO Allies and partners when needed.

“Gunston Hall Sailors are looking forward to the experiences involved in operating overseas and working closely with our Allies,” said Cmdr. Christopher W. Van Loenen, commanding officer of Gunston Hall. “The conversation with the Rear Adm. Patchell gave us insight into why exercises like this one are so important and how important it is to keep our ship battle ready.”

This year marks NATO’s 75th Anniversary, with a defensive Alliance that has grown from 12 to 31.

“For 75 years, NATO Allies have worked together to keep our one billion people safe,” Perry said. “In this moment where we face the most dangerous and unpredictable security environment, Steadfast Defender sends a clear message – NATO is capable, modern, and if required, ready to defend every inch of Allied territory.”

U.S. 2nd Fleet, reestablished in 2018 in response to the changing global security environment, develops and employs maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic in order to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied, and partner interests.

U.S. Navy photos and b-roll are available on DVIDS. For more information, contact c2f_pao@us.navy.mil.


 
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