The USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, participated in Operation Nanook, a northern operation that was conducted by the Royal Canadian Navy along with Allied nations, to ensure a stable, conflict-free Arctic region.
The U.S. Navy participated in the exercise striving to increase interoperability between allies while gaining understanding on operational hazards in the Arctic Ocean and gaining new insight from allies that operate in the Arctic region.
“Thomas Hudner performed very well during Operation Nanook. The crew was very motivated and forward-leaning throughout the exercise. We have gathered many lessons learned that can be used for future Arctic operations,” said Cmdr. Brett Litchfield, Commanding Officer of the ship.
New milestones were achieved by the Thomas Hudner during the operation. The ship conducted its first replenishments-at-sea (RAS) with the Royal Candian ship MV Asterix. It was the first RAS the Thomas Hudner had done with a foreign ship.
The Thomas Hudner also completed search-and-rescue live-hoist helicopter operations with the Royal Danish Navy. They also made a landmark transit with Royal Danish Navy Thetis-class frigate HDMS Triton (F358) through Godthab’s Fjord in Greenland.
“I feel honored to be one of the few navigators who got to tame the waters of Greenland and on the only Arleigh Burke-class to sail within the fjords of Greenland. I am thankful that the U.S. Navy gave me such an opportunity and responsibility of safety of the navigation of USS Thomas Hudner and her crew,” said Lt. j.g. Madina Petashvili, Thomas Hudner’s navigational officer.
Additional memorable milestones for the crew were the transit of the Godthab’s Fjord in Greenland and seeing the Northern Lights.
The crew also joined the Order of the Blue Nose. The Blue Nose ceremony is a traditional line-crossing ceremony that is conducted when Sailors cross into the Arctic Circle for the first time, allowing them to earn their “Blue Noses.”
“One of the more significant accomplishments of Operation Nanook was the multi-national Search and Rescue Exercise. Thomas Hudner, HMCS Ville de Quebec, and HMCS Glace Bay coordinated efforts to assist NRU Asterix as they simulated being a vessel in distress with structural damage and medical casualties after hitting an iceberg,” said Litchfield.
When operating in the Arctic Ocean, new skillsets are required, along with specialized training and gear. Operation Nanook provided the USS Thomas Hudner the opportunity to learn from Canada and other partner nations, refining the skillsets involved in operating in Arctic climates and severe cold.
“Environmental conditions turned out to be the biggest challenge in completing some of the planned events during Operation Nanook. Sea state and fog often impacted gunnery exercises, air operations, and small boat operations,” said Litchfield.
Petashvili and Quartermaster Chief Petty Officer Marc Rowe in the navigational department were heavily involved in every aspect of the mission, involved from start to finish on each evolution.
Rowe echoed his commanding officers’ sentiments regarding the environmental challenges, adding that the communication differences were another factor that all involved parties had to work together to resolve.
“Other challenges were getting used to operating with Navies that might have different protocols and procedures than we do. Our requirements for ‘how we get there’ and ‘when we’re supposed to be there,’ are slightly different from our Allied counterparts. I think success was based on the ability to communicate and adjust accordingly. I think overall the communication piece between the ships worked out, and most importantly, we learned from our Allies,” said Rowe.
Thomas Hudner participated in Canadian Operation NANOOK alongside US Coast Guard, Canadian, French, and Danish Allies to enhance their Arctic capabilities, while meeting the requirements outlined in each nation’s respective defense policies.
“Participating in cooperative exercises allows the US Navy to combine the strengths of many nations into one force and allows us to learn from each other, thus improving our tactics and techniques for future operations,” said Litchfield.
By working with Allies in the Arctic region, it allows the U.S. Navy and allies to increase military presence in the region in the future. Fostering interoperability between nations will increase information sharing and situational awareness in the region. This will assist in ensuring a safer and more stable Arctic Ocean down the line.