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Fredericksburg native participates in multinational exercise in the Baltic Sea

Provided by the Navy
KIEL, Germany – Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Wilford, a native of Fredericksburg,  is participating in the Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise with 18 other nations.
“I am blessed to have the opportunity to is it many ports,” said Wilford. “This deployment has been good in that there are certain qualifications that are easier to get during this exercise. I am in favor of keeping relation with our allies for the long term. I recognize the significance of maintaining the relationships and securing our best interest.”
BALTOPS 2019, scheduled for June 08-21, included sea, air and land assets. The multi-national exercise provides a unique training opportunity that fosters cooperative relationships critical to ensuring safety at sea and security on the world’s interconnected oceans. According to U.S. Navy officials, it is designed to improve training value for participants, enhance flexibility and interoperability, and demonstrate resolve among allied and partner forces in defending the Baltic Sea region.

Wilford is a fire controlman (aegis) serving aboard USS Gravely.

Gravely is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer homeported in Norfolk, Virginia. Navy guided-missile destroyers are multi-mission ships, equipped with tomahawk missiles, torpedoes, guns and a phalanx close-in weapons systems, that can operate independently or as part of a larger group of ships at sea.

Wilford credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Fredericksburg.

“I was taught personal responsibility and the importance of recognizing that you are the one more responsible for where you are in life,” said Wilford. “That knowledge is empowering because you have the power to change your position.”

BALTOPS 2019 was planned and is being led by U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F), as directed by U.S. Naval Forces Europe. C2F was re-established last summer as a response to the changing security environment, and BALTOPS 2019 marks the first time the renewed fleet will be operating in Europe.

Commander, C2F, Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis, will lead the exercise on behalf of U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

“As you all are aware, U.S. 2nd Fleet will be leading the exercise, but make no mistake, it will be founded on NATO and partner principles,” said Lewis. “Through BALTOPS 2019 and exercises like it, we strengthen our relationships and improve overall coordination and interoperability between allies and partners during both peace and times of conflict.”

The exercise will begin in Kiel, Germany with the pre-sail conference. At-sea training will occur throughout the Baltic Sea, including events scheduled near Putlos, Germany; Saaremaa Island, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Klaipeda, Lithuania and Ravlunda, Sweden. At the end of the exercise, most participating ships will sail to Kiel, Germany, to participate in the Kielerwochen Festival (Kiel Week).

Allied nations with ships and forces participating in BALTOPS 2019 include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. NATO partner nations Finland and Sweden will also participate in the exercise.

Serving in the Navy means Wilford is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Wilford and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy for me is an opportunity for pursuing long term educational goals without worrying about debt,” said Wilford. “There is an element of family loyalty I get by serving in the Navy.”

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