By Cmdr. Stefan Walch
Commanding officer, USS Gonzalez (DDG 66)
“Captain is in combat!” is a familiar phrase to any Sailor working in the Combat Information Center when the commanding officer enters, but also it serves as a reminder of the primary mission of any sea-going naval command – fight and win at sea. USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), also known as “Fighting Freddy,” deployed to support operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa from November 2015 to July 2016, during which time team Gonzalez was at the peak of core naval competencies, responding to multi-threat challenges. Throughout work-ups and deployment, my crew was tested and proved successful in multiple Fleet operating areas. Now with military allies in the North Atlantic, we continue to hone our built-in knowledge of the battlespace, connections among our network of partners and our ability to quickly respond to the environment.
This month, we are now participating in Exercise Cutlass Fury 2016, a Canadian-led, combined, joint maritime exercise designed to promote and enhance cooperation in the Atlantic. This year’s exercise incorporated naval, air and land components from Canada, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. This exercise provided the team another opportunity to demonstrate the ship’s motto of “Beyond the call.” This motto serves as a reminder of our namesake and Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez, who surpassed the nation’s call during the Battle of Hue City in protecting those he led over several days, while fighting enemy forces until he was mortally wounded.
At sea and engaged in maneuvers with partner nations, the true test of our abilities is being run through the paces daily during Cutlass Fury. The exercise provides a forum for valuable training to enhance shared readiness and our ability to operate in the Atlantic. We’ve exercised air defense, maritime interdiction operations, weapons firing and most predominantly anti-submarine warfare. Recognizing the rapid rate of change occurring in both technology and the maritime domain, it is not lost on us that other world powers also see the value in anti-submarine capabilities and are increasingly conducting anti-submarine warfare exercises. We benefit from shared interests and objectives with our partner nations that have been fortified for decades. We continue to grow and maintain our team’s edge for combat at sea – relationships matter and we are building connections with the next generation of international partners who will stand the watch.
There are still many training events to conduct as we head into the final stretch of Cutlass Fury 16 but I have already seen a marked growth in understanding among participating forces, demonstrated through our ability to better negotiate shared water and air space, and plan and act as a combined force. Passing through the midpoint of the exercise, with our network of partners, we continue to build capable and adaptable maritime partnerships that are beyond the call!