The ships’ presence in the Finnish port city demonstrates the United States’ commitment, alongside regional Allies and Partners, to preserving Baltic regional security and stability.
"The USS Gunston Hall Navy and Marine Corps team is motivated to work with our Allies and Partners in the Baltic Region,” said Cmdr. Beth Nelson, commanding officer of USS Gunston Hall. “We are excited to be able to visit the fine country of Finland. We were met with a kind, warm welcome by our gracious hosts and my Sailors and Marines look forward to experiencing the rich culture in Helsinki."
Like Gunston Hall, Gravely’s crew looks forward to strengthening U.S.-Finnish relations and experiencing Finnish history and culture through this port visit.
“Every Sailor aboard Gravely recognizes the importance and privilege of visiting Finland during these historic times,” said Cmdr. Hunter Washburn, Gravely’s commanding officer. “The U.S. continues to work with our Partners and Allies, just as we have done for 70 years, and we look forward to building on these partnerships now and in the future.”
Prior to their port visit, Gunston Hall and Gravely conducted extensive operations with Allies and Partners in the Baltic Sea, including a series of maneuvering exercises with the Finnish and Swedish navies. Working alongside regional Partners improves participants’ ship handling, communication, and tactical precision.
“It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside so many NATO Allies and Partners while we have been in the Baltic Sea,” said Washburn. “Each time we sail with like-minded nations, we strengthen our interoperability and enhance regional stability.”
Gunston Hall also concluded participation in the Estonian national exercise Siil 2022 this week, known in English as Hedgehog. Hedgehog exercised battalion-level command and control of amphibious operations to enhance Allied interoperability in the Baltic region with a focus on defensive maneuvers. During Siil, Gunston Hall Sailors and Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in various training events with the Estonian Defense Force, including ship to shore operations, mass casualty and casualty evacuation drills, and an amphibious assault on Saaremaa Island, Estonia.
While in port Helsinki, Gunston Hall will host a pier side engagement with representatives from a U.S. congressional delegation, as well as leaders from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Army. Gunston Hall also plans to host a key leader engagement tour aboard for U.S. ambassadors, U.S. Embassy staff, and the Finnish Ministry of Defence to thank Finland for welcoming the ship and its crew to the country.
The Kearsarge ARG and embarked 22nd MEU are under the command and control of Task Force 61/2. The ARG consists of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3); San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24); and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).
Embarked commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron SIX, 22nd MEU, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Fleet Surgical Team 4, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, Naval Beach Group 2, and Beach Master Unit 2.
Amphibious ready groups, and larger amphibious task forces, provide military commanders a wide range of flexible capabilities including maritime security operations, expeditionary power projection, strike operations, forward naval presence, crisis response, sea control, deterrence, counter-terrorism, information operations, security cooperation and counter-proliferation, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.