The U.S. Navy and Vietnam People’s Navy began the annual Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) April 7 with a welcoming ceremony for USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50) at the port of Da Nang.
During the welcoming ceremony, Vietnamese officials from the Ministry of Defense, Foreign Relations Department, Naval Zone 3, Military Region 5, Da Nang Defense Command, External Relations Office and Border Guard welcomed the crews of both ships.
2014 marks the fifth consecutive NEA Vietnam and the tenth year that U.S. Navy ships have called upon the port of Da Nang. USS John S. McCain last visited Da Nang in August 2010 as part of the inaugural NEA Vietnam, which coincided with the 15th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam.
Speaking to reporters on the pier, Capt. Paul Schlise, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7, who is embarked on McCain, emphasized that NEA Vietnam and the many port visits by U.S. Navy ships over the past decade are key examples of growing navy-to-navy cooperation.
“Each year, NEA Vietnam builds mutual trust and understanding, provides a key venue to address shared maritime security priorities and concerns, and develops our ability to operate with confidence in the maritime domain,” said Schlise.
NEA Vietnam is not a traditional military exercise – instead, it focuses on non-combatant professional exchanges in military medicine, search and rescue, diving and salvage and shipboard damage control. It is also an opportunity to develop relationships that will serve both navies for many years to come through ship tours, 7th Fleet band concerts, sporting events and community service projects.
Approximately 400 U.S. Navy Sailors and civilian mariners are participating in NEA Vietnam 2014. Participating units include USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) with embarked Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, staff from Destroyer Squadron 7 and Commander, Task Force 73, and the U.S. 7th Fleet Band, Orient Express.
Press Release, April 9, 2014; Image: US Navy