Saturday, May 02, 2009

Combined Naval Forces Now Tackle PE09 At Sea

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Whitfield M. Palmer

SOUDA BAY, Greece (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines completed the land portion of exercise Phoenix Express (PE09) May 1.

PE09 is a two-week exercise designed to strengthen regional maritime partnerships and is part of the overall U.S. Africa Command theater security cooperation strategy to enhance regional stability through increased interoperability and partnership among participating nations. Participating countries include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Senegal, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Italy, France, Malta, Croatia, and the United States.

"I don't think there is any other venue or forum where all of these nations from all around the Mediterranean, NATO, North Africa and even observers from the UAE (United Arab Emirates), have the chance to train together in this capacity," said Capt. Red Smith, commander, Joint Task Force 68/368.

"Phoenix Express pulls all of these countries together to work together and the training that they do helps all of the participants, whether it is a humanitarian event or preventing criminal activity, work effectively together."

The land portion of PE09 consisted of a compressed version of the 12-day Boarding Team Theoretical and Practical Module course taught at the NATO Maritime Operations Training Center (NMIOTC) and was taught by Greek instructors from the school. The modules included small arms familiarization, clearing corner technique, climbing techniques, and fast-roping and rapelling exercises using Greek and U.S. CH-60 Seahawk helicopters.

According to Hellenic Navy Lt. Cmdr. Leonidas Nitsotakis, senior training instructor at NMIOTC, the training during the land portion of PE09 was designed not only to prepare participants for the underway portion of the exercise but to facilitate future interoperability among participating nations.

"I believe that if we establish common standard operating procedures, this will increase the abilities of our combined task force," said Nitsotakis. "Every new commander will know that his people have common training and are prepared for missions and operations."