US and Dominican Republic Strengthen Bonds
By Geraldine Cook July 16, 2021
The U.S. Navy Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) and the Dominican Navy conducted a passing exercise (PASSEX) July 10, following a three-day port visit to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
During the exercise, Billings worked with two Dominican Navy swiftships, 110-foot patrol boat Canopus (GC-107) and Boston whaler Justice boat Nunki (LI-163). Forces practiced a series of tactical shipboard movements, formations, and vectoring, as well as tested command and control capabilities.
The training helped to improve interoperability and demonstrate the strategic partnership with the Dominican Republic that helps facilitate conducting naval operations against emerging threats in the region.
While in port, Billings hosted a reception onboard welcoming Dominican President Luis Rodolfo Abinader, Dominican Vice President Raquel Peña, U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo Chargé d’Affaires Robert W. Thomas, and Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet.
“We are doing important work in a complicated world,” said Rear Adm. Gabrielson. “Every day, it would seem that the situation defies logic — and we awaken to yet another challenge. And yet, we persevere — together, close friends, whose bond is the sea.”
Rear Adm. Gabrielson met with senior U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo officials and Dominican Navy leaders, including Vice Admiral Ramón Gustavo Betances Hérnandez, Navy chief, to discuss sailors and professional development, opportunities for educational exchanges, and ways the two navies can integrate in the future for maritime operations.
Billings’ port visit marked the first time sailors have been granted liberty in the U.S. Fourth Fleet area of operations since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The crew was able to experience the culture of the Dominican Republic, while adhering to regulations as set forth by the country to ensure the continued health and safety of the crew.
“We are glad that we were able to safely execute liberty in this wonderful country; our crew is thankful that the people of the Dominican Republic welcomed us and we look forward to returning,” said Billings’ U.S. Navy Command Senior Chief Aaron Wimberly. “The events in the Dominican Republic were the first benchmark we were looking toward when planning for deployment. It affirmed we are in theater and ready to operate.”
Billings’ visit to the Dominican Republic supports Fourth Fleet’s mission of employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security and stability. Since March 2021, the U.S. and Dominican navies have conducted five bilateral maritime exercises, strengthening tactical readiness.
Billings is deployed to U.S. Fourth Fleet’s area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes countering illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, and Central and South American region.