Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Annual UNITAS Naval Exercise Wraps Up in Colombia

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Naval forces from 15 partner nations concluded UNITAS 2013, the 54th annual multinational maritime exercise, Sept. 15 in Cartagena, Colombia.

Hosted this year by the Colombian navy, UNITAS included naval forces from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States, with observers from Belize, El Salvador, Germany, Jamaica, Panama and Mexico.

UNITAS, the longest-running exercise of its type in the world, has evolved and now includes training for many of the threats encountered in the 21st-century maritime environment, along with essential seamanship and navigational skills that are core competencies for maritime services in the Americas.

During 10 days at sea, 19 ships conducted a full spectrum of maritime operations, including electronic warfare, anti-air warfare and air defense, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and maritime interdiction operations.

U.S. 4th Fleet was represented by USS Rentz (FFG 46) and other naval units, including Patrol Squadron 10 (VP-10) and Destroyer Squadron 40.

"This was a robust schedule of events, packed with a myriad of warfare areas that stressed the multi-national forces and their ability to interoperate and work together towards common goals," said Cmdr. Lance Lantier, the commanding officer of the Rentz.

"Rentz could not have been prouder to represent the United States as the sole U.S. Navy ship to participate in UNITAS, and we could not be prouder to have successfully completed all events with enthusiasm and devastating firepower," he said. "Any ship invited to participate in this robust exercise in the future should be excited at the opportunity."

The immediate purpose of the exercise was to train participating forces in a variety of high-end maritime scenarios to test command and control of forces at sea, while operating as a multinational force to provide the maximum opportunity to improve interoperability.

"The training objectives of each one of the participating navies were incorporated during several planning conferences conducted before the exercise, allowing this year's UNITAS to provide effective training to increase interoperability while supporting the training requirements of all participating nations," said Rear Adm. Sinclair M. Harris, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet.

At the same time, the intense training resulted in coalition building, multilateral security cooperation and promoting friendship, professionalism and mutual understanding among the participating partner nations.

"UNITAS is undoubtedly a top-shelf training opportunity, but it much more than that," Harris said. "UNITAS builds lasting friendships, bonds and confidence among the participants, so when we are called to respond to a region or global crisis, we can do so as a coordinated and experienced team."

The next UNITAS exercise is scheduled for summer 2014.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet employ maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security in the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility.