The U.S. Navy’s Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15), and the Dominican Navy, conducted a PASSEX exercise July 10, 2021, following a three-day port visit to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
During the exercise, USS Billings operated alongside two Dominican Navy vessels: the 110-foot patrol boat Canopus (GC-107) and the Justice Boston-class boat Whaler Nunki (LI-163). The forces practiced a series of tactical shipboard movements, formations and vectors, in addition to testing command and control capabilities.
This training served to enhance interoperability and demonstrate the strategic partnership that exists with the Dominican Republic, which facilitates the execution of naval operations against emerging threats in the region.
In port, the USS Billings hosted a reception onboard to welcome Dominican Republic President Luis Rodolfo Abinader; Dominican Republic Vice President Raquel Peña; Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo Robert W. Thomas; and Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, commander of U.S. Southern Command Naval Forces, U.S. Southern Command.
“We are doing important work in a complicated world,” said Rear Admiral Gabrielson. “On a daily basis it seems that the situation defies logic, and we wake up to another challenge. And yet, we persevere…together, close friends, united by the sea.”
Gabrielson met with senior officials from the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo and Dominican Navy leaders, including Vice Admiral Ramon Gustavo Betances Hernandez, head of the Navy, to discuss mariner training and professional development, educational exchange opportunities, and how the two navies can integrate to conduct maritime operations in the future.
The USS Billings’ visit marks the first time Sailors have operated freely in the U.S. Fourth Fleet’s area of operations since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crew was in touch with the culture of the Dominican Republic and respected the country’s regulations to ensure the health and safety of the crew on an ongoing basis.
“We are pleased that we were able to perform, safely, freely, in this wonderful country; our crew is grateful that the people of the Dominican Republic received us well and we look forward to returning,” said Aaron Wimberly, commanding general of USS Billings, U.S. Navy Command. “The events in the Dominican Republic were the first benchmark we were looking for when planning the deployment. It showed that we are in theater and ready to operate.”
USS Billings’ visit to the Dominican Republic supports the Fourth Fleet’s mission to employ maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build lasting partnerships that promote regional security and stability. Since March 2021, the U.S. and Dominican Republic navies have conducted five bilateral maritime exercises, to increase tactical readiness.
USS Billings is deployed in the U.S. Fourth Fleet area of operations to support the mission of Joint Interagency Task Force South, which also fights illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific.
U.S. Southern Command Naval Forces support U.S. Southern Command joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, improve interoperability and build enduring partnerships to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South America.