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NORFOLK, Va. - As Finland awaits the finalization of their NATO membership process following its May North Atlantic Treaty Organization application, the Honorable Antti Kaikkonen, Finland&rsquo;s Minister of Defense, visited the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), Dec. 4, for a familiarization tour.
The minister, who was greeted by U.S. 2nd Fleet’s Deputy Commander, Rear Adm. Brian Davies received a tour of Arlington led by the ship’s executive officer, Cmdr. Matthew Plant. Subject matter experts from the crew were stationed throughout the ship to greet the minister and his guests and provided information on the capabilities within each designated warfare area.
Earlier in the day, Kaikkonen visited Allied Command Transformation, NATO's Warfare Development Command, where he had an office call with French Air Force Gen. Philippe Lavigne. After visiting the ship, he finished the day with a tour of Naval Station Norfolk.
“It was a pleasure to visit the USS Arlington on this sunny Sunday afternoon,” said Kaikkonen. “I was impressed by the capabilities of the ship and the expertise of her crew. The United States is a close and important partner with Finland and we look forward to working together as allies in the future to promote security in the trans-Atlantic area.”
The minister’s visit to Arlington comes while guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117) arrived in Helsinki, Finland, Dec. 2, following their participation in the Finnish Navy Command-led exercise Freezing Winds 22, which also included training evolutions with the Royal Danish and Royal Netherlands navies.
“It was an honor hosting the Finnish Minister of Defense; it really demonstrates our dedication to an important defense partner,” said Plant. “Arlington enjoyed working with the Finnish Navy over our last deployment and the U.S. Navy looks forward to continued opportunities to work together with Finland in the future.”
During Arlington’s last deployment which concluded in Oct. 2022, the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), composed of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), Arlington and the Whidbey Island Class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) operated in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operation under the command and control of Task Force 61/2. The ARG conducted interoperability training with partner nations Finland and Sweden to defend U.S., allied and partner interests in the Baltic Sea.