CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Provided to WBTV by the United States Navy by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rusty K. Pang, Navy Office of Community Outreach: Petty Officer 1st Class Wilfredo Baez, a native of Concord, North Carolina, is participating in the Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise with 18 other nations.
“I am looking forward to more non-traditional port visits. I joined to see exotic places,” said Baez. BALTOPS 2019, scheduled for June 8-21, 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. Baez is an aviation maintenance administration man attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron, the Ghost Riders.
Baez credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Concord.
“I bring a cordial work environment to the Navy. I like to work efficiently with a smile,” said Baez. 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 Baez 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.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Baez is most proud of being given a responsibility above his paygrade.
“As an second class at my last command, I worked in a position above my paygrade,” said Baez. “I was nervous, but my sailors advanced and grew. This means I was up to the task.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Baez and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.
“The Navy means that I am making a difference,” said Baez. “Recently, one of our sailors had to depart on emergency leave through one of the helicopters. I know that my small part helps facilitate the capability for others to do what they need to do.”