CNO: Middle East Chaos Avoids Navy Bases

Navy operations and bases in the Mideast have been unaffected by the recent anti-U.S. violence in the region and the Navy has begun military-to-military outreach to Egypt in an effort to ease tensions, the Navy's top officer said Thursday.

"We're vigilant about it," said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of Naval Operations, about the unrest triggered by an anti-Islam video produced in the U.S. "But we're not at the overly-concerned point yet."

Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain on the Persian Gulf has been operating normally and "there are no off-limits" for sailors based there, Greenert said.

More caution has been exercised in North Africa, he said.

"We're not running around on liberty in Libya" where the U.S. ambassador was killed earlier this month, Greenert said.

He disclosed that he had reached out last week to his counterpart in Egypt, Vice Adm. Mohab Mamish. Greenert sent a letter to Mamish indicating that "we're interested in re-nurturing exercises with small ships" and "working our way back to port calls" that were cut off since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak last year.

Greenert said he received a positive response but no date had been set for further discussions.

At a lunch sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Navy, and in a brief session with reporters, Greenert also touched on the minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf.

Greenert said the anti-mine drills in which about 30 nations participated were aided by the presence in the Persian Gulf of the Ponce, the former amphibious transport dock that has been refitted as an Afloat Forward Staging Base for Special Forces, helicopters and multi-purpose small craft.

The Ponce served as a command-and-control station for the minesweeping exercise and "having the Ponce, having that command and control, was very helpful," Greenert said. The Ponce also served as a launch base for the Kingfish Unmanned Underwater Vehicle.

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