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DA NANG, Vietnam - The U.S. Navy began the sixth annual Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with the Vietnam People's Navy April 6, as both nations celebrate the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2015.
This five-day collaboration will focus on non-combatant events and skills exchanges in military medicine, search and rescue, and maritime security. Subject matter expert exchanges will focus on maritime domain awareness, shipboard damage control, submarine rescue, legal symposia, band concerts, community service events, and team sports. A brief at sea-phase will allow ships from both navies to practice the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) and ship handling.
These naval activities underscore the deepening and diverse relationship between the United States and Vietnam.
"By bringing our navies and our people closer together each year, these activities advance our relationship in ways that benefit our nations directly, and by extension, promote a peaceful, prosperous and stable region," said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet's Task Force 73 (CTF 73).
NEA evolved from annual port visits to Da Nang by U.S. Navy ships, which began more than a decade ago. The guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) was the first U.S. Navy ship to visit Da Nang on July 28, 2004, and most recently USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), also a guided-missile destroyer, visited last April as part of NEA 2014. Each year, NEA becomes a bit more complex, and last year marked the first time ships from both navies conducted exchanges at sea.
Today another guided-missile destroyer, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and, for the first time, the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) are continuing this tradition during NEA 2015. The officer in charge of these ships is Capt. H.B. Le, deputy commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. A Vietnamese-American, Le commanded the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) when it visited Da Nang in November 2009.
"It's great to be back in Vietnam, and we're very much looking forward to working with our Vietnamese Navy counterparts over the next five days," said Le. "There are many highlights of this week's engagement. One of the most significant activities will be the opportunity to conduct CUES exchanges underway, which will help both navies prevent miscommunication at-sea and foster mutual understanding."
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 are designed to foster mutual understanding, build confidence in the maritime domain and develop relationships between the people and navies of both nations.
This is the sixth NEA Vietnam since it was established as an annual engagement in 2010. NEA Vietnam was last conducted April 7-11, 2014.