Military Exercise; Phoenix Express Kicks Off in Souda Bay

SOUDA BAY, Greece - USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) enters Souda Bay, Greece to participate in exercise Phoenix Express (PE-10), May 18, 2010. PE-10 is a two-week exercise designed to strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance stability in the region through increased interoperability and cooperation among partners from Africa, Europe, and United States. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Edward Vasquez)

Military exersize starts,involving Africa, U.S. and European countries.

Phoenix Express 2010 (PE-10), a two-week, two-phase, multinational, maritime exercise among regional partners from Africa, Europe, and the United States, is set to conduct its kickoff pre-sail conference and conclude its in port training portion of the exercise.

The in port phase, which began in Rota, Spain, and continued in Souda Bay, Greece, focuses on medical training, maritime interdiction operations (MIO), helicopter operations and safety, damage control, navigation, deck seamanship, search and rescue (SAR), small boat operations and a leadership round table.

Ships and personnel involved will depart Souda Bay later this month and sail into international waters in the central Mediterranean Sea.

During the underway portion of PE-10, countries will track and board suspect vessels carrying suspicious cargo, and Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Automated Identification Systems, along with MIOs like SARs and Visit, Board, Search and Seizures will be performed.

U.S. commanders believe PE-10 is invaluable to theater partners because it fosters mutual understanding and improves international military partnering.

“Phoenix Express demonstrates theater partner nations’ commitment to regional stability and maritime security,” said Captain Martin Beck, commander of Task Force 68, whose task force is in command of the exercise. “During this exercise, maritime professionals will further develop the capacity to maintain maritime domain awareness. When they meet in the future to conduct combined peacekeeping or humanitarian operations, or to counter trafficking in drugs, people, or weapons in this region, they will be better able to respond and work together.”

Twenty countries are expected to participate in the exercise as either an active participant or observer. U.S. units participating in Phoenix Express include the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), home ported in Virginia Beach, Virginia; USS John L. Hall (FFG 32), home ported in Mayport.

More background on the preparation for the exercise:

ROTA, Spain - Lance Corporal Drew Van Hook, assigned to Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST), Company Europe, at Naval Station Rota, Spain, instructs a Moroccan maritime interdiction operations team on basic close quarter battle training, April 27, 2010, in preparation for Exercise Phoenix Express. The goals of the exercise are to increase participating countries' knowledge and experience with FAST unit core capabilities and highlight common safety and security concerns in the maritime environment such as illegal immigration, criminal activity, narcotics trafficking, and weapons trafficking.

In preparation for Exercise Phoenix Express 2010, North African Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) teams are training with Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company, Europe, April 19 to May 7, 2010 at Naval Station Rota, Spain.

Moroccan and Senegalese MIO Teams are training primarily on tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with Maritime Interdiction Operations.

The goals of the exercise are to increase participating countries’ knowledge base and experience level with FAST unit core capabilities and highlight common safety and security concerns in the maritime environment such as illegal immigration, criminal activity, narcotics trafficking, and weapons trafficking.

Countering these issues require skills such as MIO, air operations and boat operations.

“Multilateral exercises like Phoenix Express are an important part of the U.S. Naval Forces Africa Maritime Supporting Plans and the International Military Partnering Lines of Operations” said Captain Martin Beck, commander of Naval Expeditionary Task Force Europe and Africa, Commander Task Force 68 (CTF 68/368). “The FAST Marines are working with our Spanish host to help train and prepare our North African partners for maritime security operations, which is key in our combined readiness to address the security challenges we face at sea.”

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