Naval Warfare

NATO’s Newest Member Operates from USS Gunston Hall in the High North

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NATO’s Newest Member Operates from USS Gunston Hall in the High North

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NATO’s Newest Member Operates from USS Gunston Hall in the High North
NATO’s Newest Member Operates from USS Gunston Hall in the High North

NATO’s newest member, Sweden, ascended into the Alliance on March 7, 2024, however their forces have had a long-standing relationship with NATO. During a port visit to Harstad, Norway, on Feb. 26, 2024, the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), embarked Swedish forces that have been conducting amphibious operations in the High North ever since. Steadfast Defender 2024, the largest NATO exercise in decades, is direct example of Sweden’s integration with NATO forces. Vice Adm. Doug Perry, commander, Joint Force Command Norfolk and U.S. 2nd Fleet emphasized the importance of Sweden’s accession as the 32nd member of NATO.

During Steadfast Defender, Gunston Hall is operating under Commander Task Force North, the maritime component command for the exercise. CTF North oversaw the direct integration of NATO’s two newest members, aboard Gunston Hall, in preparation for a series of simulated amphibious assaults in the High North, demonstrating NATO interoperability in abilities Nordic waters.Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. David Patchell, vice commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet and commander, Task Force North, for exercise Steadfast Defender 24, also noted the importance of Sweden’s accession and the fact that strong relationships between Allies and partners are a strategic advantage that our adversaries cannot match.

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Two Swedish CB90-class fast assault crafts, assigned to Sweden’s 2nd Marine Battalion, prepare to launch from the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall’s (LSD 44) well deck during Steadfast Defender 24, March 2, 2024.
Two Swedish CB90-class fast assault crafts, assigned to Sweden’s 2nd Marine Battalion, prepare to launch from the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall’s (LSD 44) well deck during Steadfast Defender 24, March 2, 2024. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Danielle Serocki)

“It is amazing to see Swedish forces integrated within NATO and a part of Steadfast Defender 24. Sweden’s membership is a historic step that ensures the safety and security of our combined one billion citizens across the Alliance. Sweden’s accension sends a clear message, NATO is a strong, capable, and integrated force dedicated to our collective security and shared values,” said Vice Adm. Doug Perry.

“Most recently, we’ve sailed during BALTOPS 22, working with our Allies and partners and now, during Steadfast Defender, embarking French marines to conduct amphibious training. With Swedish forces embarking, our ship becomes a little piece of history as well as adding a dynamic new set of skills and personnel that provide learning opportunities for all of us,” said Cmdr. Christopher W. Van Loenen, Gunston Hall’s commanding officer.

Sweden’s forces embarking adds to the long history of the ship’s NATO participation. Throughout the training, NATO allies showcased their ability to deploy over 90,000 forces from North America and other parts of the Alliance. They also demonstrated their capacity to conduct defensive operations from the Arctic to the eastern flank of the Alliance. U.S. 2nd Fleet, reestablished in 2018 in response to the changing global security environment, develops and employs maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic in order to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied, and partner interests.

NATO’s Newest Member Operates from USS Gunston Hall in the High North
Two Swedish CB90-class fast assault crafts, assigned to Sweden’s 2nd Marine Battalion, conduct small boat operations with the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) during Steadfast Defender 24, March 2, 2024. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Danielle Serocki)

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