The dock landing ship Gunston Hall returned home to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, Virginia, on April 11 after a four-month deployment that saw the ship taking part in the largest NATO exercise in decades, according to the Navy.

During NATO’s Steadfast Defender 2024, Gunston Hall was one of 50 ships taking part in the exercise, which also involved 90,000 troops.

The exercise focused on carrying out complex operations across thousands of miles, spanning from the Arctic to central and eastern Europe.

Gunston Hall left Virginia in January and first headed to Portsmouth, United Kingdom, where it embarked a landing force that included French marines.

After amphibious training exercises in the English Channel, Gunston Hall headed up to the Arctic Circle to work with Italian air assault troops and allied vessels, the Navy said.

It later embarked Swedish and Finnish marines and their CB-90 fast assault boats, and went to the high north to carry about further amphibious exercises and well deck operations.

Steadfast Defender 2024 comes as NATO’s European members work to reconstitute their military capabilities in the face of an increasingly assertive Russia and years of declining military spending in Europe.

“Our participation in Steadfast Defender demonstrated our Navy’s ability to work alongside and defend our allies,” Cmdr. Christopher Van Loenen, Gunston Hall’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “The Gunston Hall crew pushed the ship to her full capabilities in order to achieve the exercise objectives, and we did just that. I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished together.”

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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