HS follows the participation of the USS Kearsarge in a military exercise at the beginning of the week. The marines who visited Helsinki say that the city made an impression on them.
Machine guns the hoods are taken off just before departure, and the Marines line up behind them. On the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, there is a soldier in every corner observing distances to other ships with a laser range finder.
On the back deck, marines take down the blue star flag.
A large ship slowly backs away from the pier, and tourists on a German cruise ship wave and take pictures. There are a couple of hundred people on the beach doing the same thing.
Kearsarge’s port time ended on Monday afternoon, when it headed towards the waters of Hanko to take part in a large, two-week-long military exercise, in which the Finnish Defense Forces are also participating. In the exercise, the Finnish Hornets, for example, make simulated attacks on ships.
The ship on the deck you can only wonder at its size. Its flight deck is 23 meters high, while, for example, the mast height of the Finnish minesweeper Uusimaa is about 26 meters.
The flight deck is lined with different helicopters. There are also a few Harrier fighters in the line that can take off vertically. Likewise, a light armored personnel carrier and other Marine land-based vehicles are anchored there.
Inside the ship, you get confused by its maze. The hosts of the media visit say that many people get lost at first, and that’s easy to understand. When there are no exterior windows, the sense of direction disappears and all you can see around are pipes, wires, notice boards and doors with the names of the residents.
It smells like being in a foreign hotel. Maybe it’s some detergent.
HS is one of the Finnish media that gets to follow the daily life of the ship 24 hours a day. The military exercise starts on Tuesday.
But first let’s eat. The officers’ canteen offers, among other things, rice, peas, nuggets and sei. There are fruits for dessert, and they don’t taste bad at all.
One of the media contacts for the visit is Lt Maximilian Berry. He was able to visit the shores when the ship was in Helsinki.
“We wanted a few options for the ship’s food. Steak and a few beers,” says Berry. “Helsinki is a beautiful city. All the Nordic countries are so clean and beautiful.”
He was also pleased that when the ship arrived, there were hundreds of people waiting.
“That’s when I felt proud to be in the Marine Corps.”
Coincidentally, the ship arrived on the same day that the US Senate ratified the NATO membership of Finland and Sweden.
“We are happy that we are getting new members. Maybe we will still train together with Finland and Sweden and Norway.”
Harrier pilotcaptain Brian Frick says Helsinki is fantastic. Suomenlinna in particular made an impression, Frick says, gesturing across the deck in the direction of Suomenlinna’s church.
He estimates that an important aspect of the exercise is that, for example, pilots from different countries are able to communicate better with each other. Learning to work together is an essential part of the exercise.
“Now we speak the same language and are able to fight together or give help to the other,” says Frick.
He has already spent four, five months on the ship, but not completely continuously. It’s part of being a marine.
“My father was also in the navy. He appreciates that we get to see places like this. The U.S. Navy does not usually exercise here in the Baltic Sea.”
Frick will be able to go home maybe in two to three months.
“But even the plan can change. We may still be needed here, and then we will do what we have to do,” he says. “We just focus on the task, it makes it easier. In addition, port visits like this cheer up a lot.”
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