Aug 19, 2022
The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) wrapped up a highly successful bilateral training opportunity with members of the Finnish Armed Forces, Aug. 18, 2022.
The training, which took place from Aug. 9-18 with the Finnish Navy Command in the Northern Baltic Sea and the region of Hanko, increases readiness between the close partners and demonstrates the United States and Finland’s shared goal of preserving security and stability in the Baltic region.
The two-week interoperability training immediately followed Kearsarge’s port visit to Helsinki, Finland, Aug. 5-8. While in port, Kearsarge hosted various members of Finland’s military and political leadership through a series of key leader engagements and meetings. These engagements laid the groundwork for the ensuing bilateral training.
“This exercise enabled the Kearsarge ARG-MEU team to train and operate alongside our Finnish partners,” said Capt. Aaron Kelley, commander of the Kearsarge ARG and embarked Amphibious Squadron SIX. “Finland’s expertise is critical to further developing our understanding of the operational environment. Working together improves coordination across our combined maritime force and provides increased readiness and responsiveness, while also demonstrating ally and partner resolve and commitment to security in the Baltic region.”
Throughout the two-week period, U.S. and Finnish forces participated in a variety of scenarios and exercise events throughout the maritime domain. Out to sea, units participated in amphibious well deck operations, mine-countermeasure demonstrations, ship maneuvering drills, and several quick-response medical exercises, while sharing techniques and procedures and improving communication and coordination.
"The opportunity to come to Finland and train with the Finnish armed forces was a phenomenal experience for my Marines,” said Col. Paul Merida, commanding officer of the 22nd MEU. “The chance to operate in constricted maritime terrain provided our forces a unique opportunity to learn from our Finnish partners who operate in this environment every day."
Ashore in the region of Hanko and across the Finnish Archipelago, personnel conducted explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) exercises 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, Finnish Navy conscripts and reservists got a remarkable chance to peer review their skills with their U.S. counterparts. The compressed planning of the exercise proved that we have already had a good ground for deeper cooperation and interoperability. Readiness to operate together even with a short notice is vital in today’s environment,” said Finnish Navy Command’s Chief of Operations, Captain (N) Juhapekka Rautava.
On Aug. 17, U.S. and Finnish forces showcased their combined capabilities ashore during a distinguished visitor event in Uppiniemi. The demonstration featured U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53s, and Finnish U-700 Jehu-class landing craft conducting a choreographed ship-to-shore operation and simulated raid. Visitors received front-row seats to view U.S. 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 in supporting security and stability in the Baltic Sea region. We are looking forward for very active co-operation together with the U.S. forces in either 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 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 28, Naval Beach Group 2, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, and Beach Master Unit 2.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our Allies and Partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered 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. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.