Commander Task Force North led complex amphibious operations requiring precise planning, coordination, and execution across nine NATO nations during the culminating maritime event of Steadfast Defender 24, Alta, Norway, March 10.

Under CTF-N, the maritime command element, forces from the United Kingdom, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, and the United States demonstrated the capability to jointly execute advanced maritime operations to deliver forces from the sea to land.

Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. David Patchell, vice commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet and commander, Task Force North, for exercise Steadfast Defender, explained how this amphibious operation showcases NATO’s ability to conduct operations in diverse environments and do it effectively on a large scale.

“These amphibious operations are built on weeks of maritime movements from North America to the High North, with multinational training, operations, and rehearsals,” said Patchell. “Our Allies and partners are integral to protecting the Alliance’s territories, preserving our military advantage, and upholding rules-based international order.”

Over the course of the maritime portion of the exercise, 14 NATO nations worked to show the strength of the maritime domain by securing the trans-Atlantic link between the U.S. and Europe, integrating forces off the coast of Europe, and the ability to travel to the High North for highly complex amphibious operations.

USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) played a fundamental role during the amphibious operations by deploying Finnish and Swedish Marines from their well deck.

Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2 and deputy commander, Task Force North for exercise Steadfast Defender, emphasized the efficiency, capability, and the experience that Gunston Hall brings to an exercise of this magnitude.

“The scale and scope of Steadfast Defender provided a unique opportunity for all the NATO forces involved, including the Sailors on Gunston Hall,” said Nicholson. “Over the course of the exercise, we have seen the true definition of interoperability by embarking Finnish, French, Norwegian, and Swedish Marines on board the ship and our Sailors working with them to execute and support amphibious operations.”

Gunston Hall embarked Finnish Marines, assigned to the Nyland Brigade and Swedish Marines, assigned to 2nd Marine Battalion, in Harstad, Norway during a port visit, to begin integration and training with the ships’ crew prior to the final events.

Cmdr. Christopher W. Van Loenen, Gunston Hall’s commanding officer, commended his crew for their hard work during the entire exercise.

“Our departure in January kicked off Steadfast Defender, and since day one, my Sailors have been nothing short of incredible and resilient in everything that we’ve done to this point,” said Van Loenen. “When we embarked NATO forces, my Sailors lived with and worked side-by-side with our Allies, building the relationships with them at a very personal level.”

Steadfast Defender continues to the next phase which is a multi-domain demonstration of NATO, national and multinational military capabilities across continental Europe, further showcasing the strength of the Alliance.

Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024, the largest NATO exercise in decades, encompasses cyber, air, land, and maritime forces to demonstrate NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America and other parts of the Alliance to reinforce the defense of Europe.