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UNITAS Pacific Phase Begins

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS030715-13

Release Date: 7/16/2003 9:10:00 AM

By Lt. j.g. Ligia Cohen, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Public Affairs

MANTA, Ecuador (NNS) -- UNITAS 44-03 Pacific Phase commenced July 10 when more than 2,400 Sailors and Coast Guard personnel, assigned to ships, aviation squadrons and Coast Guard vessels from five countries, rendezvoused in Manta and Salinas, Ecuador. The two-week annual exercise is designed to foster multinational coalition operations by building mutual capabilities and cooperative relationships among naval forces in the Americas.

This year's Pacific Phase includes participants from Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and the United States. The Ecuadorian Navy is hosting UNITAS Pacific Phase, with 16 ships, two submarines and 17 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft from Chile, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and the United States participating.

"For 44 years, UNITAS has brought together Sailors and naval officers from many nations to train and operate side-by-side and by doing so, developing cooperative relationships, professional understanding and lasting friendships," said Rear Adm. Vinson E. Smith, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, as he kicked off the exercise. Smith, the multinational Task Force Commander, also commended the Ecuadorian navy for their exceptional work in planning and initiating the execution of this year's Pacific phase.

The U.S. task group is commanded by Capt. James Martin, commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 6, and includes the flagship USS Stump (DD 978), USS McInerney (FFG 8), and their embarked helicopter detachments from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 and 48.

"Our forces' ability to operate together safely and effectively is crucial in today's contingencies," said Martin. "UNITAS allows us not only to learn from each other, but also to learn together in a state-of-the-art training environment."

After two days of inport seminars and preparations, the multinational force set out to sea to conduct a week of traditional at sea operations, including undersea, surface and air warfare exercises in preparation for an intense three day final battle problem. The battle problem will place the force in a realistic scenario to test its ability to respond as a coalition in a variety of missions, including search and rescue, maritime interdiction and sanctions enforcement.

Simultaneously, six coastal patrol ships located in Salinas, Ecuador, are conducting the Coast Guard portion of UNITAS with the participation of personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard International Training Division. The Coast Guard portion of the exercise focuses on maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and maritime pollution responses.

Now more than ever, UNITAS plays a critical role in maintaining interoperability and enhancing coalition operations in support of hemispheric defense. It also presents an opportunity for U.S. Sailors and Coast Guard members to work closely with their Western Hemisphere counterparts, visit interesting ports and experience the rich cultures of Central and South America.

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