Thursday, June 03, 2010

UNITAS 51 Atlantic Phase Comes to a Close

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Michael J. Scott, CTG 40.0 Public Affairs

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Vic Guillory, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet thanked the Argentine navy for introducing another generation of officers and enlisted personnel to Unitas 51 as the Atlantic phase of the exercise came to a close May 26 at the Armada de la Republica Argentina headquarters in Buenos Aires.

Unitas, which is Latin for unity, develops and sustains relationships that improve the interoperability between maritime forces to achieve common goals. Starting in 1959, it is the U.S. Navy's longest-running annual multilateral exercise. Its enduring nature demonstrates the shared values of the Western hemisphere and the nations' commitment to countering regional challenges. The relationships that are formed during the course of the exercises are enduring and allow the maritime forces to grow together.

The Atlantic phase of Unitas 51 was hosted by Argentina and included participants from the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and observers from Canada, Germany, Colombia, Uruguay, and South Africa. This year's exercise was unique in that Unitas included Argentina's Navy Day celebration and the bicentennial of their independence.

Unitas normally lasts about two weeks during which partner nations participate in a variety of professional and personnel exchanges, sporting and social events, and an at-sea phase where units train in a variety of maritime mission areas simulating real word circumstances. Both the in port and at-sea phases of the exercise contribute to and enhance relationships among the partner nations.

"This year built upon the great successes of Unitas Gold [Unitas Gold was the 50th iteration conducted last year]," said Capt. Brian Nickerson, commander, Task Group 40.0 and Destroyer Squadron (COMDESRON) 40. "The relationships that endure, the goodwill that is fostered, and the chance for the naval forces of the Americas – both South and North – to work alongside one another makes this one of the most unique exercises that the U.S. Navy conducts."

For the United States, those fortunate units that participated in Unitas 51 Atlantic phase were Commander, Destroyer Squadron (COMDESRON) 40, USS Klakring (FFG 42) with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 Det. 10, USCGC Spencer (WMEC 905), USS Memphis (SSN 69), and VP-8. Argentina contributed ARA Sarandi (D 13), ARA Robinson (P 45), ARA Patagonia (B-1), ARA Teniente Olivieri (A-2), ARA Suboficial Castillo (A-6), and ARA Salta (S-31) while Brazil sent BNS Constituicao (F-42) and BNS Tikuna (S-34). For Mexico, this year's Unitas presented them the first opportunity for their ship, ARM Baja California (PO 162) to participate.

Besides building cooperation at sea, Sailors got the opportunity to reach across cultures. USS Klakring Sailor Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Andrew Ryland said he really loves the game of soccer, but playing in these kinds of games has given him a new perspective.

"I understand why this game is loved by so many people in the world," said Ryland. "It has a magical quality of bringing everyone together."

Sailors were also treated to an asado -- a traditional Argentine barbecue by their hosts. During the meal, teams intermingled and share stories about their careers and the game.

"We are very honored and pleased to have the U.S. Navy and the other navies visit our ship," said ARA Sarandi's (D 13) acting master chief, Operations Specialist Senior Chief Guillermo Lencina. "It is very important for our navies and sailors to develop closer relationships. If we didn't have these opportunities, we couldn't learn from or about each other."

Relationships are also enhanced by ship exchange programs that allow sailors from different nations to live and interact with each other. Not only do the participants gain an understanding of how another navy conducts its daily operations, but the experience cultivates lifetime friendships and relationships.

"All navies in the Americas do similar jobs," said Sarandi's Commanding Officer Carlos Maria Allievi. "What's most important is meeting the people and getting to know one another. Unitas provides the vehicle for that to happen."

Brazilian helicopter maintenance supervisor Sgt. Jermed Martins of BNS Constituicao (F-42) echoed this sentiment.

"Not only do our ships look the same, but a sailor is a sailor in every navy," said Martins. "We all mirror each other."

At the closing ceremonies, Rear Adm. Pablo Vignolles, commander of the multinational force, talked about the will of countries.

"Our countries came with a will to work together; a will to make friends," said Vignolles. "Two weeks ago, those aboard the ships had never met before."

Klakring, assigned to Task Group 40.0, is on a six-month deployment to South America and the Caribbean as part of Southern Seas 2010 (SS10). Southern Seas is an annual U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-directed operation implemented by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO) and executed by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40 as Commander, Task Group 40.0. Southern Seas focuses on conducting a variety of exercises and multinational exchanges to enhance interoperability, increase regional stability, and build and maintain regional relationships with partner nations. SS10 includes the guided-missile frigate, USS Klakring (FFG 42), HSL-42 Det. 10, and DESRON 40 serving as the command element.