Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vella Gulf Wrapping Up Rewarding Seven-Month Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky, Iwo Jima Amphibious Expeditionary Strike Public Affairs

USS VELLA GULF, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) is nearing the end of a successful seven-month deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).

Throughout the deployment, Vella Gulf played a significant role in counterpiracy operations.

Early in the deployment, Vella Gulf assumed duties as the on scene commander (OSC) of the pirated Motor Vessel (M/V) Faina crisis.

"Our successful mission as the OSC of the M/V Faina crisis was the longest and most challenging," said Capt. Mark Genung, Vella Gulf's commanding officer. "My watch team's out-of-the-box thinking immediately shaped the tactical situation. In the course of more than 100 days on station, Vella Gulf maintained vigilant situational awareness throughout in what became a highly-complex ransom negotiation process."

"We de-escalated several tense situations when the pirates made credible threats to the Faina hostages and Vella Gulf," Genung continued. "We ensured Faina's significant military cargo was not imported into Somalia, prevented terrorists from capturing or damaging Faina and, most importantly, ensured the negotiations resulted in the safe release of the hostages."

Vella Gulf's involvement in counterpiracy operations continued for the duration of the ship's time in 5th Fleet. Following the M/V Faina crisis, Vella Gulf served as the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 counterpiracy operations.

"Our mission as the flagship of CTF 151 was extremely satisfying," said Genung. "We captured 16 suspected pirates that attempted to pirate the M/V Polaris and M/V Prem Divya. Despite the high risks associated with small boat operations and helicopter warning shots, we captured these heavily-armed suspected pirates without any injuries or inadvertent discharges."

Genung is proud of his crew's accomplishments and the impact they've made.

"Vella Gulf proved that we are good world neighbors and are working together to improve maritime security and safety," said Genung. "The success of our ship and crew contributed significantly to Iwo Jima ARG's overall mission, and I am proud of the job we've done."

Vella Gulf is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ESG supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seeks to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.