Houston native participates in multinational exercise in Baltic Sea region

Style Magazine Newswire | 6/12/2019, 7:51 p.m.
Petty Officer 1st Class Dustan Rhodes, a native of Houston, is participating in the Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise with 18 ...
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Steven Edgar

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Bill Steele, Navy Office of Community Outreach

KIEL, Germany – Petty Officer 1st Class Dustan Rhodes, a native of Houston, is participating in the Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise with 18 other nations.

“I do network cyber defense,” said Rhodes. “I'm looking forward to seeing the bigger picture during this exercise. I’m on a command ship so if there is any conflict in this area of responsibility we would be directing network traffic.”

BALTOPS 2019, scheduled for June 08-21, includes 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.

Rhodes is an information systems technician aboard USS Mount Whitney.

Mount Whitney is named for the 14,505-foot peak in the Sierra-Nevada range in California, the highest point in the lower continental United States. It is the first ship in the U.S. Navy to bear this name. Mount Whitney serves as the Command Ship for Commander, SIXTH Fleet/ Commander, Joint Command Lisbon/Commander, Striking Force NATO and has a complement of 150 enlisted personnel, 12 officers and 150 Civilian Mariners from Military Sealift Command.

Rhodes credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Houston.

“I don't judge anyone by the way they look or whatever,” said Rhodes. “I treat everyone I meet as a person first, not as a rank. I think in this new generation of sailors it's harder to gain their trust and respect, and I think that starts with treating them with trust and respect and showing that you care about them. They’re not just a resource to be used.”

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.