KIEL, GM – Petty Officer 1st Class Akram Omar, a native of West Orange, recently participated in the Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise with 18 other nations, according to Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Theodore Quintana from the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

Prior to his departure for BALTOPS, Omar said that “being a leading petty officer during this deployment and at sea has been very helpful,” but that he was also excited to get home to his newborn twins. He credits his success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in West Orange.

“Growing up in Jersey I learned the importance of being patient,” said Omar.

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Omar is a boatswain’s mate aboard the USS Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship named for the 1814 defense in Baltimore that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner.” According to U.S. Navy officials, Whidbey Island class ships have the largest capacity for landing crafts of any U.S. Navy amphibious platform. 

Although there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Omar said he is most proud of receiving the crafts master pin.

“Serving in the Navy means honor, respect and tradition,” said Omar, who, as a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, knows that he and his fellow sailors are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

According to Navy officials, the BALTOPS 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.

The multi-national exercise included allied nations with ships and forces from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as NATO partner nations Finland and Sweden.

The 2019 program was led by U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F), as directed by U.S. Naval Forces Europe. Commander, C2F, Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis, led the exercise on behalf of U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

“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,” said Lewis.

Following a pre-sail conference in Kiel, Germany, at-sea training occurred throughout the Baltic Sea—including events scheduled near Putlos, Germany; Saaremaa Island, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Klaipeda, Lithuania; and Ravlunda, Sweden.

In a press release issued about the program, Quintana said that serving in the Navy means that Omar 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.”

He noted that one key element of the Navy that 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, according to the U.S. Navy’s press release.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Richard Spencer, Secretary of the Navy. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”