SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic
The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) and the Dominican Republic Navy conducted a passing exercise (PASSEX) recently, following a three-day port visit to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
During the exercise, Billings worked with Armada de República Dominicana Swiftships 110'-class patrol boat Canopus (GC-107) and Justice Boston whaler-class 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 the President of the Dominican Republic, His Excellency Mr. Luis Rodolfo Abinader, Vice President of the Dominican Republic Raquel Peña, Chargé d’Affaires of U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo, Mr. Robert W. Thomas, and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson.
“We are doing important work in a complicated world,” said 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.”
Gabrielson met with senior U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo officials and Armada de República Dominicana leaders, including Chief of Navy, Vice Adm. Ramón Gustavo Betances Hernández to discuss Sailor 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. 4th 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’ Command Senior Chief Aaron Wimberly. “The events in the Dominican Republic were the first benchmark we were looking towards when planning for deployment. It affirmed we are in theater and ready to operate.”
Billings’ visit to the Dominican Republic supports 4th Fleet 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. In the past four months, the U.S. and Dominican navies have conducted five bilateral maritime exercises, strengthening tactical readiness.
"Billings is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific."
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th 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, Central and South American region.