DA NANG, -- The U.S. Navy and the Vietnam People's Navy (VPN) kicked off the 7th annual Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) Vietnam with a welcome ceremony at Tien Sa Port in Da Nang, Sept. 28.
NEA Vietnam has evolved from annual port visits to Da Nang by U.S. Navy ships, which began more than a decade ago, to a multi-day bilateral naval engagement ashore and at sea. Each year the engagement becomes more complex, and last year marked the first time a littoral combat ship, USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), participated.
"Our coordination with the VPN and Da Nang People's Committee continues to be positive and productive, and we appreciate the efforts of the U.S. country team in Hanoi to continually deepen our partnership with the VPN," said Capt. H. B. Le, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. "We've expanded the sea phase this year to incorporate a more complex CUES (Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea) event and search and rescue scenario. We're looking forward to working with [guided-missile destroyer] USS John S McCain (DDG 56) and interacting with the VPN and people in Da Nang, building on the success and lessons from last year's NEA."
NEA Vietnam 2016 will focus on non-combatant events and will include symposia in military medicine and maritime law, subject matter expert exchanges in navigation, shipboard medicine and damage control, and community service events including multiple performances by the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet rock band, Orient Express.
During the sea phase the two navies will practice communications through the CUES and conduct a search and rescue scenario.
"My Sailors are excited to visit Vietnam and look forward to the unique opportunity to operate alongside the Vietnam People's Navy," said Cmdr. Jessie Sanchez, commanding officer, John S. McCain. "I look forward to getting underway as part of our continued efforts to increase our ability to operate alongside our VPN partners."
U.S. assets participating in 2016 include John S. McCain, personnel from Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73, DESRON 7, and the U.S. 7th Fleet Band "Orient Express."
July marked the 21st anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam, and 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.
Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 staff conduct advanced planning, organize resources and directly support the execution of NEA Vietnam in addition to maritime exercises such as the bilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) series and the multilateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) approaches the pier in Da Nang, Vietnam, Sept. 29, 2016.