6th Fleet flagship USS Mount Whitney returns from eastern Mediterranean deployment
Stars and Stripes December 8, 2023
NAPLES, Italy — The amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney is back in Italy, after seven weeks in the Mediterranean Sea amid U.S. efforts to keep the Israel-Hamas conflict from broadening in the Middle East.
The U.S. 6th Fleet flagship returned to its Gaeta homeport Friday, the fleet announced in a statement the same day.
While deployed, Mount Whitney worked with allied and partner navies. They visited Larnaca in Cyprus and Naval Support Activity Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete, 6th Fleet said.
The 6th Fleet statement didn’t have specifics on Mount Whitney’s actions. But the ship is equipped with extensive communications capabilities and other assets that enable it to direct operations.
The ship’s return follows the departure of at least two other U.S. Navy vessels sent to the eastern Mediterranean in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Mount Whitney deployed Oct. 18.
The destroyer USS Ramage, part of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, returned to Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 3 following a seven-month deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/6th Fleet area of operations, the Navy announced the following day.
Ramage served as an air defense unit for the strike group off the coast of Israel and closely monitored Russian navy units for signs of aggression, the service said.
While on deployment for 214 days, the Ramage crew logged over 400 helicopter landings and sailed more than 50,000 miles, the Navy said.
And on Nov. 28, the destroyer USS Paul Ignatius returned to its homeport at Naval Station Rota in Spain after an extended six-month deployment that included integration with the Ford group. Paul Ignatius is one of four destroyers deployed to Rota.
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner remain in the eastern Mediterranean, each having made recent visits to NSA Souda Bay.
The cruiser USS Normandy, also part of the Ford group, visited Piraeus, Greece, on Dec. 3.
Ford was nearing the end of a six-month deployment in the NAVEUR-AF/6th Fleet area of responsibility when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered it to the eastern Mediterranean in October. Austin then indefinitely extended the carrier’s deployment.
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde and embarked elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit also remain in the region.
Mesa Verde, part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, recently finished a bilateral exercise with a Greek marine brigade in the Mediterranean, 6th Fleet said in a statement Thursday.
Other elements of the group, including the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan and the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall, remain in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the Navy announced Oct. 4 that it was beginning search and salvage operations for an Army MH-60 Black Hawk that crashed last month during aerial refueling in the eastern Mediterranean, killing all five soldiers aboard.
A salvage and diving team was expected to leave the Italian port of Augusta Bay, near Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, in the coming days, the Navy said.