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Regional Planning Teams Spell Success for Black Sea Partnership Cruise

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071002-27
Release Date: 10/2/2007 6:41:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jennifer L. Clifton, U.S. Naval Forces Europe–Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

USS MOUNT WHITNEY, At Sea (NNS) -- Six months worth of planning came to fruition for the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe–Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-C6F) Black Sea Caspian Sea Regional Planning Team (BSCS RPT) with 59 ship riders from five partner nations participating in the Black Sea Partnership Cruise, Sept. 24-28.

The exercise was the first multilateral underway training event in the region aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20).

Led by Capt. Skip Lussier, the BSCS RPT envisioned and planned the event to support CNE’s strategic priority to improve maritime security and safety through theater security cooperation (TSC).

“The concept for this exercise began with the regional experts of the RPT planning to engage multilaterally using nontraditional activities,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rich Byrnes, a BSCS RPT deputy lead.

Event participants included a cross organizational team composed of the BSCS RPT, various CNE-C6F staff members, units from CNE’s Maritime Partnership Program (MPP), Commander Task Force 67 staff, Commander Navy Region Europe (CNRE) personnel, USS Mount Whitney and the Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 28 detachment.

Junior officers and senior enlisted from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Republic of Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine attended four primary workshops, focusing on various aspects of maritime security and safety.

The courses were designed to provide training from U.S. Navy subject matter experts in maritime security and safety and to foster cooperation among participants by having them work together in groups to discuss and openly share unclassified information.

“Having ship riders from foreign navies onboard U.S ships is nothing new, but having so many from five different countries, sailing and working together is truly historical, challenging and enjoyable,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Bass, another BSCS RPT deputy lead.

Rear Adm. Robert M. Clark, director of the TSC program for CNE-C6F, said the BSCS RPT planned the framework for the exercise, but the execution was very dynamic, adjusting to the needs of the ship riders.

“It all boils down to relationships,” said Clark.

MPP is intended to build longterm relationships to the south in Africa and to the east in the regions of the Black and Caspian seas.

Meeting face to face with future leaders of partner navies and working with them to meet their national and regional needs, builds a bridge for future engagements.

“The relationship goes both ways,” said Capt. Chip Walter, who controls the tactical execution of the Black Sea Partnership Cruise.

Subject matter experts shared not only their knowledge but also their past mistakes with the ship riders. Table talks included discussing the growing pains of moving from a conscript military to a volunteer military, the logistics and financial costs of technology to improve the sharing of unclassified information with partner nations, and the long-term costs and benefits of developing well-trained, motivated noncommissioned officers.

“It’s taken us 34 years to get this right,” said Clark. “We want our partners to learn from our failures as well as from our successes.”

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