Friday, October 16, 2009

PHIBRON 2 Showcases Command and Control

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class W.B. Swoboda, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group(ARG) began its participation in Exercise Bright Star 2009 Oct. 10, with Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 2 serving as the command and control (C2) element, providing oversight on naval surface, aviation and amphibious operations during the naval portion of the exercise.

As PHIBRON 2 showcases its C2 capabilities, the operations of the units over which it has tactical control are displayed and monitored throughout the Tactical Force Control Center (TFCC) aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5).

"As the battle watch captain (BWC), my position is the center hub for all operations of the ARG," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Kraft, communications officer for PHIBRON 2. "My primary responsibilities as a BWC include coordination with higher command and between the different platforms of the ARG, timely execution of a given timeline, and regularly reporting on the status of operations."

Each component of the Bataan ARG depends on consistent and accurate coordination and communication to successfully execute their parts of Bright Star 2009, as well as their ongoing mission of conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations. This coordination includes tracking both air and surface contacts with sophisticated radar systems and transmitting the information via satellite links to other ships and installations ashore.

"Team cohesion is not an issue, regardless of the distance between units, because we are dealing with professionals," said Master Chief Machinist's Mate Armando Samonte, PHIBRON 2's senior enlisted advisor. "Each unit is very capable of performing their assigned task. Once in a while we may encounter equipment problems with our communications systems but nothing our skilled technicians cannot readily restore."

Watchstanders in TFCC oversee the execution of an operations plan approved by the PHIBRON 2 commodore, Capt. Jack L. Sotherland. While Sotherland ultimately decides on the operational plan, he receives inputs from the commanding officers of each unit within the ARG and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), embarked upon the ships of the Bataan ARG.

"The commodore, MEU commander, and the captain of Bataan are all major commanders, so it's all a supported-supporting relationship," said Capt. Paul McElroy, the deputy commander for PHIBRON 2. "The PHIBRON coordinates with the different commanding officers in the ARG, as well as the MEU, so whether we're supporting Marines landing ashore, or we're sending a boarding team to assist a vessel in distress, the commodore will have the support of all the other commanding officers."

Handling such a diverse group of assets can be just as much of a challenge as it is a luxury. "It's a delicate balancing act," said Kraft. "You have to prioritize based on what is most important, plus the BWC relies very heavily on the other members of the watch team for support. Looking at it from the outside, it looks easy because we function very well as a team by dividing the workload."

Bataan ARG is participating in Bright Star 2009 through Oct. 20. The exercise is the largest and most significant coalition military exercise conducted by U.S. Central Command. It is designed to improve readiness, interoperability, and strengthen the military and professional relationships among U.S., Egyptian, and several other participating forces. The multinational exercise is conducted by U.S. Central Command and held every two years.

Bataan ARG is participating in the multinational exercise while conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations and is composed of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Fleet Surgical Team 6, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, ACU 4 and Beachmaster Unit 2.