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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

USS Underwood visits Doha, Qatar

29 May 2007
By Lt. Nathan Christensen
USS John C. Stennis Deputy Public Affairs Officer
.

DOHA, Qatar - USS Underwood (FFG 36) arrived in Doha, Qatar, May 13 for a two-day port visit to take part in Qatar-American Friendship Day and enhance theatre security cooperation within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO).

During the visit, Underwood Sailors took part in many events designed to help build and foster relationships between the U.S. and Qatari Navies.

“It is an honor for the ship to pull into Doha,” said Underwood Commanding Officer Cmdr. Thomas Dearborn. “I've deployed to the region since 1989 and have never been to Qatar. It is my hope that through our visit we will further strengthen the relationships that exist between the United States and Qatar.”

Besides helping to build and foster relationships, the ship’s visit to Qatar is also aimed at strengthening bilateral ties by increasing the level of professional and maritime interaction between the two countries, as well as promoting security and stability within the region.

"In order to establish a secure maritime environment that promotes peace and stability, it is important for us to form strong partnerships with countries in the region like Qatar," said Dearborn.

While United States naval ships (USNS) and patrol crafts (PC) have conducted port visits to Doha in recent months, Underwood is the first U.S. Navy warship to visit Qatar in three years, according to Cmdr. Cody Loosefoot, the U.S. Embassy Naval Attaché in Doha.

"Improving cooperation between the United States and Qatar is very important," said Loosefoot. "Port visits by U.S. Navy warships to Doha help do just that."

Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 152, Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, flew to Underwood prior to the ship’s arrival in port and rode into Doha with the crew.

"Port visits are an opportunity for people of a foreign country to see what good ambassadors U.S. Sailors are," said Quinn. "Theatre security cooperation missions like this help maintain important ties between our two countries."

While operating in the Arabian Gulf during its deployment as part of the USS Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), Underwood joined CTF 152 in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the region.

CTF 152 conducts MSO in the Central and Southern Arabian Gulf and operates under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.

MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists the use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Upon arrival into port, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Chase Untermeyer met the ship at the pier and welcomed Underwood's crew to Doha.

"Since becoming ambassador, we've worked to have more U.S. vessels pull into Qatar," he said. "It is our hope that our country's ties will become closer and more U.S. Navy ships will be able to pull into Doha as a result of this visit."

Official visits and exchanges were planned as part of the ship's visit to Doha. Underwood played host to five officers and 10 Sailors from Qatar's Navy while in port. The Qataris were able to take part in shipboard damage control and firefighting training and received a tour of Underwood as well.

"We appreciate the opportunity to interact with our Qatari friends and share our ship with them," said Lt. Dave Leiker, Underwood's chief engineer.

"It's been several years since a warship like this pulled into Doha," said Ensign Lisa Masso, Underwood's combat information center officer. "Any type of theatre security cooperation that our ship can participate in is not only good for morale, but also is positive for international relations."

A reception was also hosted as part of Qatar-American Friendship Day, and many of Underwood's crew were able to attend. Other Qatari officials as well as U.S. government and naval officials also attended the reception.

Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet, Quinn and Untermeyer were among the event's attendees.

"Port visits like this one strengthen and deepen U.S. relations with countries in the region," said Quinn. "Having Underwood pull into Doha and take part in the national holiday celebrations as part of Qatar-American Friendship Day is a sign of our commitment to the country of Qatar."

Underwood departed its homeport of Mayport, Fl., Jan. 8 with the USS Bataan ESG on a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOO.

Photo: USS Underwood's (FFG 36) Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Thomas Dearborn, talks with three Qatari naval officers on the quarterdeck. Underwood is in port Doha, Qatar, as part of Friendship Day. Underwood is part of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group and joined Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 in support of Maritime Security operations (MSO) in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. Official U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Nathan Christensen.

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