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 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.
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.
Vella Gulf, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, returned to the Aegean Sea on August 26, 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.