Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Phoenix Express Begins at Souda Bay

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Jeff Troutman, Navy Public Affairs Support Element-East Detachment Europe

SOUDA BAY, Crete (NNS) -- Phoenix Express 2011 (PE-11), a multi-national maritime exercise between U.S., North African and European naval forces, commenced May 23.

PE-11, a three-week evolution divided into two phases, is designed to enhance regional maritime partnerships.

Maritime and land forces from 14 countries will participate in the international military partnering exercise in the Mediterranean Sea from May 23 to June 15, and will serve as a training opportunity to enhance each country's ability to work together and to deter illicit trafficking at sea.

Exercise events will consist of training in maritime domain awareness (MDA) and interdiction operations (MIO), command and control from an ashore combined maritime operations center (CMOC), search and rescue operations (SAR), communications, division tactics, and medical response.

"Phoenix Express has evolved over the past six years, growing from six nations in 2005, to 13 participants this year," said Capt. Martin Beck, Task Force Phoenix Express 2011 commander. "It is an essential training exercise in the Mediterranean that fosters trust among allies and partners, leverages our combined maritime strength, and promotes unity of effort to overcome common threats against our maritime security. The classroom training combined with live at-sea events provides a robust opportunity to share a wealth of expertise and experience among the 13 countries participating in this year's exercise."

The in-port phase of the training will focus on medical and MIO training at the NATO MIO Training Center in Souda Bay. Additionally, combined maritime forces pierside will coordinate workshops in helicopter operations and safety, damage control and firefighting, deck seamanship, navigation, SAR, small boat operations and a leadership roundtable. Once the in-port phase is complete, ships and personnel will depart Souda Bay and head into the central Mediterranean Sea to begin the underway training phase.

While underway, ships and their personnel will focus on MDA and the automatic identification system, to include interaction between forces afloat and the CMOC ashore. Combined maritime forces will also execute a series of scenarios exercising force protection measures, MIO – to include visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS); and helicopter VBSS (HVBSS) – SAR, replenishment at sea, towing and helicopter operations.

U.S. units participating in Phoenix Express include USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49), USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29), and Military Sealift Command's maritime prepositioning ship USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016) and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198). Additional U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa staff personnel will also participate alongside other international naval forces in this exercise.