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US, UK Forces Train to Ensure Free Use of Seas

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070905-01
Release Date: 9/5/2007 9:25:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Woody Paschall, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- U.S. and British forces completed a mine countermeasures (MCM) exercise in the Central Persian Gulf Aug. 2 to demonstrate the coalition’s ability to help regional partner nations ensure security and stability in the maritime environment.

The mine countermeasures capability is an element of maritime security operations (MSO). Coalition forces conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.

USS Ardent (MCM 12), USS Dextrous (MCM 13), USS Gladiator (MCM 11), USS Scout (MCM 8), HMS Blyth (M111), HMS Ramsey (M110), Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Mobile Unit 6 Detachment 4, and the “Blackhawks” of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 Detachment 2, located, identified and destroyed inert mines planted in the exercise area.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) served as the command and control platform and base of operations for Commander Mine Countermeasures Division (COMCMDIV) 31 and HM-15 Det. 2.

“We set up a simulated mine threat area and deployed inert bottom and moored mines for air, surface and EOD assets to search and identify,” said Lt. j.g. Greer Lynch, operations officer for COMCMDIV 31.

Once HM-15’s MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters identified potential threats in the mine threat area, the mine countermeasures ships and EOD personnel begin clearing the area.

“Experience plays a major role in identifying threats,” said Mineman 2nd Class Neil Meyer, HM-15 Det. 2 tactics leading petty officer. “Through these types of exercises our technicians are able to sharpen their skills, become more efficient and quicker at identifying valid contacts. Experience lets the technicians have a lot more certainty when they say ‘Yes, this is a mine.’”

The coalition forces integrated quickly to bring the full MCM triad -— air, surface and subsurface countermeasures —- to the mine threat area and put their capabilities to work, said Cmdr. Scott Davies, COMCMDIV 31.

“We get a lot of synergy among the U.S. and U.K. (United Kingdom) MCM forces,” said Davies. “The U.K. Navy brings additional capabilities to the table that really enhances our shared objectives and that is, if necessary, clearing international waterways and keeping them open for commerce.”

Davies added that this exercise challenged the two coalition forces by working in deeper waters than normal.

“It makes the dives and mine hunting more challenging, but it has been successful,” said Davies. “Using our amphibious craft and the helicopters from HM-15 we were able to quickly move equipment and personnel from Bahrain out to the operations area. We’ve got the coalition integrated and working together and were able to come together very quickly to put this capability out here.”

The exercise also tested COMCMDIV 31’s ability to base their operations aboard a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship at sea, ensuring the Navy maintains the capability to clear a mine threat area wherever it may be required.

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