Military


Sea Breeze

Ships from five countries, including the United States, arrived at Ukraine's Crimean peninsula on 25 August 1997 to take part in naval exercises opposed by Moscow. The exercise in Ukraine was the first PFP exercise to be held on the former Soviets' base ever. In other words, the first in an area that was once part of the Soviet Union.

The ships from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and the United States arrived at Donuzlav naval base in western Crimea. Russia, whose Black Sea fleet is based nearby in the port of Sevastopol, rejected an invitation from Ukraine's Defense Ministry to take part in the Sea Breeze 97 exercises, but agreed to send observers. The exercise simulated a humanitarian mission, not the originally-planned combat operation. But the maneuvers annoyed regional power Russia, which bases its Black Sea fleet nearby. The Russians boycotted Sea Breeze 97 because they considered the original scenario -- NATO forces assisting Ukraine to counter armed separatists -- to be provocative.

The exercise was opposed by Moscow officials, pro-Russians in the region, Crimean separatists and Ukrainians who oppose President Leonid Kuchma's quest for closer ties with NATO. On 15 July 1997 the Ukrainian parliament rejected a motion by leftwing factions to ban NATO training on Ukrainian territory. The motion was introduced by the Communist, Socialist and Agrarian factions. The Sea Breeze exercises are scheduled at the end of August off Ukraine's Crimean peninsula with the participation of 20 ships and 300 marines from the U.S., Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Romania and Georgia. The left-wing factions claimed that the exercises, as well as an earlier training exercise this month, were unconstitutional. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko assured deputies that the exercises did not run counter to the Ukrainian constitution. Udovenko said that the fact that Kyiv had not applied to join NATO did not mean that it should not cooperate with the alliance. Defense Minister Olexander Kuzmuk told deputies that all NATO training exercises were financed by the alliance and they were peacekeeping in nature.

The tensions prompted Ukraine to change its plans for Sea Breeze, moving the land-based portion of the exercise off Crimea. Changes have been made in the Crimean landing as well. For instance, instead of charging ashore from landing boats, some 150 Marines was carried in on a barge in what officials call an "administrative offload."

NATO officials emphasized the Sea Breeze '97 exercise off the Ukrainian coast was purely peaceful. But for many residents of the mostly ethnic-Russian Crimean peninsula, the maneuvers have touched a raw nerve. About two-thousand protestors marched to a Crimean beach resort Monday, denouncing the exercise as a symbol of western aggression against Russia. Sea Breeze was originally conceived as a combat exercise involving an amphibious landing to rescue a fictional republic threatened by separatists backed by a powerful neighbor. Ukrainian officials changed the mission to one of humanitarian aid in an effort to appease Russia, which saw itself as the target of the maneuver. Still, the Kremlin refused to participate, or even send observers.

Critics said the Sea Breeze '97 exercise ignored the history of the Crimean region, and stirs strong feelings among Russian nationalists, both in Russia and Ukraine, who want the peninsula back under Kremlin rule. Crimea was an area of several wars between Russia and Turkey, between Russia and western countries during the last 150 years. And in this situation, participation of the Turkish navy in the maneuvers was met quite unfriendly by big segments of the Crimean population. And for them those maneuvers represent a demonstration that the policy of the central Ukrainian government is anti-Russian.

Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) Two Four completed operations in the Black Sea after transiting the Turkish Straits. While in the Black Sea, the "Keystone Squadron", led United States participants in the spirit of Partnership For Peace Exercise Sea Breeze 97. Operating from their flagship, USS Spruance (DD 963), DESRON 24 visited Donuslav and Odessa, Ukraine; and Varna, Bulgaria. During their stay in Donuslav before the exercise, Sailors from USS Spruance, USS Ponce (LPD 15), DESRON 24 as well as Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations. Sailors and Marines took part in parades and friendly athletic competitions between the Ukrainian, Turkish, Romanian, and Bulgarian navies. Events leading up to the exercise also included a 90-minute press conference that included more than 200 news agencies. Sea Breeze 97 trained military forces at providing humanitarian relief for victims of a simulated earthquake in Southern Ukraine. This portion of the exercise also stressed cooperation and coordination at sea. Following the at-sea portion of the exercise, the participants entered Odessa for the completion of the exercise. After Odessa, DESRON Two Four and USS Spruance visited Varna, Bulgaria.

The naval multinational exercise Sea breeze-98 was organized near Odessa, and not in the Crimea, like it was done within the last two years. According to the scenario, in some "coastal republic" an earthquake occurred, and its authorities requested the UN for assistance. The ships, helicopters, aircraft, submarines and a united peacekeeping marines battalion participated in the exercise.

On 23 September 1998 preparation for the naval multinational exercise Sea Breeze-98 was completed in Prakticheskaya Bay (Odessa). Representatives of the staff of the Ukrainian Western Sea Area reported that this bay was cleaned from the "cemetery of ships" by the opening of the naval exercise, which will be organized within the framework of Partnership for Peace program, in which the ships of the NATO, Ukraine, USA, Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Turkey, France, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Russia will participate. The US Department of Defense financed the cleaning, preparation of moorage and staff buildings, having assigned some $400,000.

The Ukrainian-US naval exercise "Sea Breeze'98" was held in Ukraine on October 25 - November 4, 1998, on the subject "Carrying out of peacekeeping operations, providing of humanitarian relief and carrying out of search/rescue operations on the territory of a country having suffered from an earthquake." The Sea Breeze'98 maneuvers was held according to the Ukrainian-US cooperation program and in the spirit of the Partnership for Peace Program. NATO members and partners were invited to participate in the Sea Breeze'98, with Bulgaria, Great Britain, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Turkey and France having confirmed their participation. Over 30 ships and vessels were involved in the exercise, as well as one submarine, 10-12 planes, and 10-12 helicopters. The exercise's naval phase was held in the Black Sea's northern area, the coastal one was staged on the Shyroky Lan playground near Mykolaiv. During the exercise, an international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief team was formed with a purpose to create a safety zone, deliver humanitarian relief to the population, evacuate patients and wounded. Peacekeeping forces had a task to ensure an embargo on illegal arms supplies to a country dubbed "The Coastal Republic", and to be ready to resort to arms to protect peacekeeping forces.

Exercise Sea Breeze 98, an exercise held in the spirit of the Partnership for Peace program, began in earnest 28 October 1998, as Marines and Sailors from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (forward) established their base camp and participated in several cross-training events. In Sea Breeze in 1998, the Russian Black Sea Fleet was represented by two warships, among 30 others from 11 countries.

After being welcomed to the Shirokiy Lan training area by the exercise commander, Col. Prykul of the Ukrainian Marines, the participants moved right to the training areas and got down to business. The American Marines and Sailors, alongside Marines from the Ukraine, Romania, Russia, Georgia and several other nations, practiced a variety of disaster relief and peacekeeping operations, which included field medical practices and mine-clearing techniques. The participants also rehearsed vehicle checkpoint procedures.

Throughout the day, Marines from each nation trained together and, despite the language barrier, found ways to communicate. Arms were waving in the air. Gestures and smiles were seen at all the training sites as the participants got their messages across and got to know each other as well.

The four-day exercise had all the participants rotating through each training site to allow everyone a chance to work with each other and develop the cooperation necessary to successfully conduct disaster relief operations.

Sea Breeze 98 ended with a combined-effort disaster relief drill on Oct. 31. All the training came together as Marines from all the participating nations put their training tothe test in a simulated earthquake disaster scenario.

The exercise was designed to enhance international cooperation in disaster relief situations as an extension of the Partnership for Peace program. This was only the second time this exercise has been conducted, but was proof that Partnership for Peace is more than just a title.

The Sea Breeze 99 naval exercise started in Ukraine on 09 December 1999. This time, the exercise was fundamentally different, aided by a command staff and computer processor, based on the Western Naval District Headquarters of the Ukrainian Naval Forces in Odesa. No ships or troops were involved. The scenario of this year's exercises involves an imaginary republic suffering a natural calamity and appealing to the world for humanitarian assistance. The NATO-sponsored, computerized naval exercise was completed in the Black Sea port of Odessa, with Ukrainian Navy commanders praising the maneuvers as an example of fruitful international cooperation. The Sea Breeze '99 exercises, which began on Dec. 9, involved officers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Britain, Ukraine and the United States using computers to practice reaction to a natural calamity and providing aid to a disaster-stricken nation. The participants commanded an imaginary fleet of 33 vessels, six aircraft, 10 units of marines and additional manpower belonging to Ukraine's Emergency Situations Ministry. "We are meeting as friends, we see openness on the part of our partners and we are offering the same openness in response," said Ukraine's Navy commander, Vice Admiral Mykhailo Yezhel. Ukraine participates in numerous NATO-sponsored training programs, much to the ire of neighboring Russia, which regards NATO as a threat and is strongly against its expansion eastward.

Exercise Sea Breeze '01 (5-15 July) is an in-the-spirit-of Partnership-for-peace (PfP) exercise hosted by Ukraine. SB-01 had a complete exercise phased operation designed to improve standards of interoperability between participating partner and NATO units by conducting a crisis command post exercise and a maritime and ground live exercise focusing on peace support operations.

Sea Breeze '01 (SB-01) allowed staff representatives of the participating nations to practice humanitarian relief operations from the sea. The exercise promoted common understanding of humanitarian assistance doctrine, search and rescue doctrine and the conduct of multinational maritime relief operations.

Some 1,500 officers from 12 countries on 06 July 2001 started the NATO-sponsored exercise "Sea Breeze 2001" in the Black Sea port of Odesa, AP reported. The exercise continued until 16 July and included three stages of computerized, sea and coastal training involving seven Ukrainian vessels, a U.S. Coast Guard ship and a Turkish landing ship, as well as military planes and helicopters.

Pacifying the protesting locals is one of the most important stages of the peacekeeping exercise. A joint peacekeeping battalion, consisting of American, Ukrainian and Turkish marines, managed to cope with this mission confidently and without a single shot. The fleet task force, the core of which was made up of Ukrainian and Turkish amphibious assault ships, ensured the peacekeepers were able to land. A high level of coordination between the multi-language task force was achieved by using common operational and tactical standards. The knowledge of such standards is a must for taking part in international peacekeeping missions.

The once shaky peace of Green Republic erupted into violence. Armed gangs, starving and poor, began causing chaos on the streets. The newly independent government requested help from the international community. The U.S. Marines and Ukrainian Marines along with Turkish Naval Infantry quickly combined their resources to answer the call. That was the scenario here, July 5-17, during exercise Sea Breeze 2001, an In-the-Spirit of Partnership-for-Peace exercise.

Humanitarian assistance or peace support operations are complex and challenging and require special training to prepare our forces. Exercises like Sea Breeze allow nations to practice the skills to include planning, to quickly and effectively handle a humanitarian crisis or any other peace support mission.

To demonstrate their newly-acquired skills, the joint forces conducted an amphibious landing followed by riot-control of an angry mob at the Chabanka training area, northeast of here.

The exercise was designed to develop an international capability to conduct humanitarian relief operations and promote a common understanding of relevant humanitarian assistance, while conducting multinational maritime relief operations.

During the demonstration, the Ukrainian fleet arrived and a minesweeper quickly pushed to the forward edge of the formation covering their position with thick, white smoke. A Ukrainian MI-8 helicopter came out of a blind spot just below the cliffs to drop two Ukrainian Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines into the water. At that moment several BTRs poured out of the belly of a Ukrainian landing ship.

Within minutes the first two BTRs hit the beach, one flying the United States flag and the other the Ukrainian. They where joined by Light Armored Vehicles and their ground forces, made up of U.S. and Ukrainian Marines, Turkish Naval Infantry. Within moments ground forces poured out the back of vehicles dressed in riot gear. Acting as one, the multinational force pushed back the mob. In less than a few minutes time, they scattered off the field, and the situation was safe once again.

The landing and subsequent demonstration was observed by numerous dignitaries from nearly 10 countries. Following the show of force it was onto the two-day field training exercise.

More than 160 Marines, from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, from Albany, N.Y., and six LAVs from Co. D, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn., Quantico, Va., made up a large portion of the ground forces. A platoon of Ukrainian Marines from the Crimean Peninsula and a squad of Turkish Naval Infantry also participated in the event.

The U.S. and Ukrainian Marines split up into two groups that represented the main body of the humanitarian peace-keeping force and a smaller aggressor unit. At the beginning of the exercise they seemed wary of each other, but as barriers such as language where overcome, the soldiers of the sea learned that they had much in common and could work together well. Legare participated in Sea Breeze 2001. With over 1,500 naval participants, Legare represented the United States as the only U.S. vessel participant. Legare served as a task force commander conducting combined peace support operations with NATO participants. While in Ukraine, 40 members of Legare's crew volunteered their liberty time to renovate a recreational center for children. For two days, men and women from the Legare knocked down walls, ripped out broken plumbing, scraped ceilings, removed 300 pounds of rubble, and plastered walls in an old Soviet "block housing" area in Odessa.

The military and political vacuum created by the Russian fleet dodging active participation in the navy games in the Black Sea basin was filled up by Western fleets.



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