By Ensign Jamar Miles
USS Simpson PAO
The guided missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG-56) recently conducted a port visit in Valletta, Malta during its deployment in the US 6th Fleet area of operation.
The visit was designed to continue Naval Forces Europe-Africa's efforts to strengthen maritime partnerships with European nations in order to enhance regional stability. During the course of the visit, Simpson and her crew participated in a variety of events with the Maltese including ship tours, a community relations volunteer project and going head-to-head in a friendly soccer game against the Armed Forces of Malta.
"Simpson is grateful to have had this time to experience the rich history and culture of Malta," said Cmdr. Christopher Follin, Simpson's commanding officer. "This port visit was a perfect opportunity to strengthen our partnership with Malta as we collectively work to improve safety and security in the Mediterranean."
The first day of the visit was filled with activity starting with tours on the ship for local associations. Visitors were given a unique look into how each of Simpson's departments contributes to its operation at sea.
"The Maltese were very pleased to have such an intimate view of a U.S. Navy vessel and her Sailors," said Lt.j.g. Andrew Mauney, Simpson's Auxiliaries Officer.
The second day allowed Simpson's crew to share tactics and techniques in medical, damage control, Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), and sea-based aviation employment. Members from the Armed Forces of Malta, as well as Simpson Sailors, felt that the exchange allowed for greater professional understanding in each of the demonstrated skill sets.
"It is great to exchange standard operating procedures whilst making new friends that operate out at sea," said a Maltese Sailor that participated in the training.
Members of the Maltese Special Detachment Enhanced Boarding Team showcased their skills in maritime interdiction operations as they boarded Simpson. The display highlighted the use of both forces' tactics and equipment.
"I found it exciting to compare tactics with the Maltese," said Ensign Andrew Hahn of Simpson's Visit Board Search and Seizure team.
Damage control demonstrations included processes for detection of fire and other hazards while at sea. Simpson's Damage Control Assistant, Lt.j.g. Marco Arroyo, walked Maltese Sailors through the ship's repair lockers to familiarize them with the tools used to counter fire, flooding and toxic gas. The training culminated in a crash and salvage drill which simulated the required response for a helicopter crash on the flight deck.
"I was very impressed with the how well the Maltese Sailors performed," said Arroyo.
Maltese Medics were given training in expeditionary medicine and were able to test their capabilities to rapidly treat combat wounds in conflict scenarios or incidents out at sea.
"It was very interesting to have a chance to compare critical life saving techniques, while indentifying the differences between Western and European medical practices," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Mathew Robichaux.
While the tours were being conducted on board the ship, more than two dozen members of Simpson's crew, along with volunteers from the American Embassy in Malta, participated in a community relations volunteer project. The Sailors tackled the challenge of painting a local shelter for victims of domestic abuse. The project was a huge success and left a positive impression on the community. Participants were able to lend a helping hand by refreshing the interior appearance of the shelter.
"Due to the lack of staff resources, it would have taken months to complete what was finished in a day," said one Maltese shelter volunteer.
Following the community relations project, Simpson Sailors saw action on the soccer field as they took on members of the Armed Forces of Malta in a friendly competition. Both teams welcomed the chance to showcase teamwork and sportsmanship in the host country's favorite past time.
The final event of the day was a reception hosted on board the ship. The afternoon welcomed several Maltese dignitaries as well as the American Ambassador to Malta and several members of the U.S. military attachÃ©. The guest of honor was the American Ambassador of Malta Gina Abercrombie - Winstanley. Members of Simpson's wardroom, crew and their distinguished guests shared a memorable afternoon over gourmet food prepared by the ship's culinary specialists.
"I was very impressed and honored to be in attendance of such a remarkable event and in the presence of so many esteemed guests," said Gunner's Mate 1st (SW) Enrique Cruz, Simpson's Sailor of the Year.
Simpson deployed to the 6th Fleet area in September of 2013 and will continue its mission until their scheduled return to home port.