Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cleveland Completes Maritime Infrastructure Protection Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Grant P. Ammon, Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

USS CLEVELAND, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Cleveland (LPD 7) completed a multinational maritime infrastructure protection exercise in the Arabian Gulf Jan. 13.

Twenty-two ships from five nations took part in the four-day exercise, STAKENET PLUS, which focused heavily on wide area maritime infrastructure protection (WAMIP) operations. The operations were conducted under the tactical control of United Arab Emirates Army Col. Tareq K. Al Zaabi, the current commander of Combined Task Force 152.

"STAKENET developed the ability of navies from different countries to work together and protect critical maritime infrastructure anywhere in a given area of responsibility," said Capt. Bradley Mai, the Task Group 152.1 commander that embarked Cleveland during the exercise.

Critical maritime infrastructure consists of facilities, structures, systems, assets, or services that, if disrupted, would have a debilitating impact on regional security, stability and prosperity.

"Our operations took place over nearly 900 square miles," said Mai. "This was the first time we have trained to protect this large of an area with a force this diverse."

Training operations such as STAKENET bolster maritime security operations and directly complement Navy efforts to strengthen existing ties and emerging partnerships.

"The maritime strategy calls for and hinges upon our ability to work well with our regional partners," said Mai. "There is no better example of that ability than these countries coming together to focus their efforts on key interests that are shared by many of our global partners."

Cleveland served as the command and control platform for exercise assets. The ship's ability to embark the Coalition staff played an integral role in the successful coordination of large-scale, multinational maritime maneuvers.

"A maritime exercise of this size and complexity needs a commander serving afloat to rapidly respond to any of the many issues that arise day-to-day," said Mai. "Our ability to embark USS Cleveland and execute an exercise of this magnitude is extraordinary."

"Our ship played multiple roles during STAKENET, said Capt. Kevin Couch, Cleveland's commanding officer. "We hosted the task group staff, and were responsible for the inner defense zone around the Coalition's critical maritime infrastructure."

Cleveland is deployed with the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, currently supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.