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U.S. Warships Complete Exercise in Alaska

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050826-02
Release Date: 8/26/2005 8:33:00 AM

By Lt. Denise Garcia-Barham, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Pacific

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (NNS) -- Three U.S. warships, along with more than 5,000 Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and personnel from various federal, state, and local agencies, successfully concluded exercise Alaska Shield/Northern Edge 2005 Aug. 15-19, bringing an end to Alaska's premier emergency readiness training exercise.

This year’s Alaska Shield/Northern Edge exercise events provided a wide range of simulated natural disasters and terrorist events in Alaskan communities, such as earthquakes and biological and chemical attacks. The exercise also included simulated terrorist events in the air and at sea that were designed to challenge and provide training to military and civilian “first responders.”

To conduct maritime homeland defense operations against the notional terrorist threat at sea, a Maritime Action Group was formed consisting of USS Russell (DDG 59), USS Crommelin (FFG 37), USS Ogden (LPD 5), and a variety of Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force aircraft. Additionally, USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and USCGC Boutwell (WHEC 719) played opposing forces. The group was commanded by Commander, Destroyer Squadron 21, Capt. Vic G. Mercado, who was embarked aboard Russell.

During Northern Edge, the Navy and Coast Guard worked together to search and detect notional suspect vessels believed to be carrying known terrorists. Once detected, the vessels were boarded via compliant and non-compliant boarding procedures. A Coast Guard Marine Safety and Security Team (MSST) from Long Beach, Calif., embarked Ogden and conducted non-compliant boardings via small boat transfer.

Additionally, Russell’s and Crommelin’s Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) teams conducted compliant boardings of several notional suspect vessels.

“The biggest challenge came in the planning phase of the mission,” said Ensign Ryan M. Winkler, Russell’s boarding officer, who is also the ship’s disbursing officer. “Being that Russell has not done an actual boarding since 2002, there were a lot of particulars to hammer out prior to deployment of the team. Once everything was set, the mission went pretty smooth,” he said.

“The VBSS mission is growing within the Navy,” said Russell Commanding Officer Cmdr. Jim Kilby. “Our ability to effectively conduct this mission in home waters and on deployment is clearly a surface warfare core competency,” he said.

Multiple service aircraft were also involved with “at-sea” deterrence and defense operations during the exercise. Air Force E-3 aircraft and a Coast Guard C-130, along with a Navy SH-60B Seahawk and P-3 Orion aircraft conducted search and surveillance operations. Additionally, Air Force F-15E Eagle strike fighters, controlled by Navy air controllers on Russell, performed low pass show-of-force missions over the notional suspect vessels.

“The coordinated joint surveillance resulting in the call for a show-of-force by the fighters was a highlight for the maritime operations, because it demonstrated a key exercise objective of cooperation and interoperability among the services for homeland defense,” said Capt. Vic Mercado, commander, Destroyer Squadron 21 and the Maritime Action Group commander.

U.S. Northern Command, in cooperation with the state of Alaska division of homeland security and emergency management, led this year’s exercise. Alaska Shield/Northern Edge is planned to be exercised every odd year, alternating with the military-only version of the Northern Edge series, which occurs in even years. Next year, Northern Edge will focus on joint combat operations involving all branches of the armed services.


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