DA NANG, Vietnam - Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus visited Sailors participating in the sixth annual Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) Vietnam 2015, April 9.
Mabus addressed the crews of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), as well as staff from Destroyer Squadron 7 (DESRON 7).
Mabus highlighted the importance of exchanges like NEA Vietnam in fostering relationships and strengthening maritime partnerships.
"As part of the Navy's forward deployed naval force, the Sailors of Fort Worth and Fitzgerald should be proud of the difference they are making during exchanges like NEA Vietnam," said Mabus. "It's through these face-to-face engagements that we are able to deepen our relationship with Vietnam."
U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius also accompanied SECNAV in Da Nang.
"I am immensely proud of how far our two navies have come since 2003, when we conducted our very first U.S. Navy Goodwill and Friendship port call in Vietnam," said Osius. "It took vision, hard work, and most of all, trust, to get us to this point. If we have learned anything over the past 20 years, it's that nothing is impossible."
During his remarks, SECNAV underscored the first-ever LCS visit to Vietnam, as well as the opportunity both navies will have to practice Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) later this week.
"LCS is now a fixture in 7th Fleet," said Mabus. "The opportunity for Fort Worth and Fitzgerald to get underway together with the Vietnam People's Navy will build confidence and ensure safe communication when our ships meet again on the seas."
NEA Vietnam began in 2010 and focuses on non-combatant events and skills exchanges in military medicine, search and rescue, and maritime security. Subject-matter expert exchanges place an emphasis on maritime domain awareness, shipboard damage control, submarine rescue, band concerts, community service events and team sports. A brief at-sea phase to practice CUES and ship handling with the Vietnam People's Navy is the highlight of the annual exchange.
In addition to Fitzgerald and Fort Worth, U.S. units participating in NEA Vietnam include personnel from CTF 73, DESRON 7, Undersea Rescue Activity San Diego, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, and the U.S. 7th Fleet Band "Orient Express."
Occurring during the 20th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam, these activities were designed to foster mutual understanding, build confidence in the maritime domain and develop relationships between the people and navies of both nations.