The training, which took place from August 9 to 18 with the Finnish Navy Command in the Northern Baltic Sea and Hanko region, increases readiness among close partners and demonstrates the common goal of states States and Finland to preserve security and stability in the Baltic region.
The two-week interoperability training immediately followed Kearsarge’s port call in Helsinki, Finland, August 5-8. While in port, Kearsarge hosted various members of Finland’s military and political leadership through a series of engagements and meetings of key leaders. These engagements laid the foundation for the bilateral training that followed.
“This exercise allowed the Kearsarge ARG-MEU team to train and operate alongside our Finnish partners,” said Capt. Aaron Kelley, Kearsarge ARG Commanding Officer and embarked Amphibious Squadron SIX. “Finland’s expertise is essential to further develop our understanding of the operating environment. Working together improves coordination within our combined maritime force and provides increased readiness and responsiveness, while demonstrating the resolve and commitment of allies and partners to security in the Baltic region.
Throughout the two-week period, U.S. and Finnish forces participated in a variety of scenarios and exercises throughout the maritime domain. At sea, the units participated in amphibious operations on the shaft deck, mine countermeasures demonstrations, ship maneuvering drills and several rapid response medical drills, while sharing techniques and skills. procedures and improving communication and coordination.
“The opportunity to come to Finland and train with the Finnish Armed Forces has been a phenomenal experience for my Marines,” said 22nd MEU Commander Col. Paul Merida. “The ability to operate in restricted sea terrain has provided our forces with an opportunity to learn from our Finnish partners who operate in this environment every day.”
Ashore in the Hanko area and across the Finnish archipelago, personnel conducted drills in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel. Members also participated in live-fire training and exchanged valuable skills and tactics with their Finnish counterparts.
“In this exercise, conscripts and reservists from the Finnish Navy had a remarkable chance to assess their skills with their American counterparts. The condensed planning for the exercise proved that we already had a good foundation for deeper cooperation and interoperability. The readiness to operate together, even on short notice, is vital in today’s environment,” said Finnish Navy Command Chief of Operations Captain (N) Juhapekka Rautava.
On August 17, U.S. and Finnish forces showcased their combined capabilities ashore at a Distinguished Visitors event in Uppiniemi. The demonstration included United States Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53s and Finnish U-700 Jehu-class landing craft conducting a choreographed ship-to-shore operation and a simulated raid. Visitors were given front-row seats to see American and Finnish interoperability in action.
Bilateral training events such as these underscore the importance of like-minded nations working together in pursuit of common goals.
“We are able and willing to do our part to support security and stability in the Baltic Sea region. We look forward to very active cooperation with US forces in the bilateral or NATO framework,” Rautava added.
The Kearsarge ARG and embarked 22nd MEU, under the command and control of Task Force 61/2, consists of Kearsarge, San Antonio-class amphibious transport ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), and Whidbey Island-class landing ship dock USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).
Shipborne commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron SIX, 22nd MEU, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Fleet Surgical Team 4, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Air Force Squadron Sea Gunships 28, Beach Naval Group 2, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, and Beach Master Unit 2.
For more than 80 years, US Naval Forces Europe-US Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our allies and partners, building on a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Based in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. The U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF and employs maritime forces across the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.