During his trip to Nitze, Clapperton met with the crew and command leadership to congratulate them on their recent successes while independently deployed in the U.S Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of responsibility in support of Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South. Nitze deployed to SOUTHCOM in May to support enhanced counter drug operations in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
“The strategic importance of this interagency mission and Nitze’s capability to execute it are of vital importance to the Navy and our country’s national security,” said Clapperton. “I’m extremely impressed with the collaboration by the entire interagency team and am proud of Nitze’s superb contribution. It’s clear to me that they set the bench mark for future units that will conduct these operations."
Since commencing their surge deployment, Nitze, with embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, seized 807 kilograms of cocaine, worth over an estimated wholesale value of $30.1 million, and 6,151 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated wholesale value of $10.8 million.
"The crew has trained hard and worked tirelessly to accomplish our national tasking,” said Cmdr. Donald Curran, Nitze’s commanding officer. “Everything achieved on this deployment has been the result of seamless integration between Nitze and our embarked Air and Coast Guard law enforcement detachments. This was a team effort all the way."
Clapperton took the opportunity to recognize some of the specific achievements of Nitze’s crew. One Sailor, Retail Services Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Bassette, was recognized for his role during detainee handling operations, where he assisted in the oversight of ten detainees and the safe transfer of contraband.
Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd class Tyler Lodge, one of Nitze’s search and rescue swimmers, assisted distressed Ecuadorian mariners in July.
"It felt really good helping them out and ensuring they would make it home safe,” said Lodge. “We go to schools and train for any occasion so this felt like a normal day to me. Any mission at any time; Nitze will get it done."
While aboard the Strike Group flagship, Clapperton met with Ford leadership to further strike group integration initiatives, observed Ford’s third iteration of carrier qualifications for student naval aviators, and monitored guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke’s (DDG 51) participation in exercise Black Widow from Ford’s Surface Undersea Combat Center (SUSCC).
Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Jesse James, from Montauk, New York, Ford’s OM division lead chief petty officer, said the SUSCC team managed the fusion plot to create a common operational picture of exercise Black Widow. “We maintained active tracks on three surface and two sub surface vessels, multiple aircraft, and operations boxes for the entire exercise,” said James. “We also entered multiple sonobuoy fields that weren't in line of sight or within link range."
To ensure an accurate common operational picture, the SUSCC team coordinated with Ford’s combat direction center (CDC), as well as multiple external commands to include the USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS McFaull (DDG 74) and Arleigh Burke. Together they ensured integration of Global Command and Control System and LINK tracks, correlating redundant tracks into one.
“There are only four of us, and this is the first time we’ve been able to use the system for something like this,” added James. “We were able to figure everything out to identify the tracks with CDC; all of the watch teams supported us very well.”
Arleigh Burke is one of two guided-missile destroyers participating in exercise Black Widow.
Capt. Chris Follin, Arleigh Burke’s commanding officer, said the exercise “presents opportunities for high velocity learning above and below the sea in anti-submarine warfare as [Arleigh Burke] validates, improves and refines tactics to align with the capabilities of our systems necessary to compete and win.”
"Significant improvements have been made in our Navy's Anti-Submarine Warfare equipment and training since we laid the keel on the DDG 51 class destroyer,” Follin added. “This exercise is a significant opportunity for our Anti-Submarine warfighters to hone their skills and test the limits of their new equipment in this unprecedented integrated war fighting event.”
CCSG-12 is Immediate Superior in Command for Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), Destroyer Squadron 2 and assigned destroyers, USS Gettysburg (CG 64), and USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55). CCSG- 12 exercises oversight of unit level and integrated phase training and overall operational readiness for the entire Strike Group.