Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ships Sortie for At-Sea Phase of UNITAS Atlantic

By Lt. Stephanie Homick, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs
KEY WEST, Fla. (NNS) -- Thirteen ships representing the seven countries participating in the Atlantic Phase of UNITAS 2012 sortied to their operating area in the Caribbean, Sept. 20.

After spending a few days in port in Key West, Fla. preparing for the exercise through planning meetings, ships from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard departed the Mole Pier on the Truman Waterfront throughout the day.

"Meeting all the new people from all the different countries - it was fun to talk to them, hear their stories and I think it's going to be fun to work with them in the exercise now after having met with them in all the meetings and spending some time with them," said Lt. Matthew Bornemeier, a pilot embarked aboard USS Underwood (FFG 36). After leaving the pier, each ship completed a simulated channel transit and then rendezvoused at a predetermined location in the Caribbean. The afternoon comprised of each ship's air department conducting deck landing qualifications.

"It's one of those skills that's a perishable skill," said Bornemeier of the deck landing qualifications. "If you don't continue to practice, you become a little rusty and it's something we do all the maintain our proficiency. It's a challenging exercise and we do it every time we take off and land."

The afternoon concluded with an air defense exercise, the purpose of which is to assess each ship's combat information center in air plotting and anti-air warfare radio telephone procedures.

"An air defense exercise tests a unit's capability to detect, track and engage an air target," said Lt. Lori Rose, Underwood's operations officer. "It flexes combat's ability to conduct anti-air warfare."

Sept. 20 is the first day of the eight-day at-sea phase of the 53rd iteration of UNITAS Atlantic.

UNITAS is the longest running and largest maritime exercise in this hemisphere. The 12-day exercise will entail a variety of operations intended to enhance interoperability between the partner nations.