Two U.S. warships and two Military Sealift Command vessels are taking part in the annual Baltic Operations exercise, which started Monday and runs through June 19 in northern Europe.

More than 5,000 sea, air and ground forces from 13 countries are taking part, including the cruiser USS San Jacinto, guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin, and military pre-positioning container ships SS Pfc. Eugene A. Obregon and MV 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo.

During a recent news conference in Gdynia, Poland, BALTOPS ’04 commander Rear Adm. Thomas Kilcline said that the exercise is designed to foster a better working relationship between the nations’ militaries.

“The teamwork and mutual understanding that we develop here will support peace and serve as an effective deterrent against those forces of instability that are in our world today,” he said.

The 32nd annual BALTOPS exercise involves various shipboard exercises and maritime interdiction operations training.

“We need to focus on missions that support the global war on terrorism …,” Kilcline said.

Ground forces will also make an amphibious landing and simulate the evacuation of noncombatant personnel by air and sea. For the second year in a row, Russian soldiers will take part in the landings.

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