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Chilean Ship Conducts PSI Boarding During PANAMAX 2009

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090922-15
Release Date: 9/22/2009 1:07:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Chilean frigate CNS Almirante Cochrane (FF 05)conducted a proliferation security initiative (PSI) boarding Sept. 18, as part of the multinational exercise Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2009.

Cochrane's team boarded Phantom, a target vessel used for the exercise, to help train teams in a realistic scenario for counter illicit trafficking.

"We are always training for another kind of war, and in this case, we are having different scenarios, and checking different ships (for illicit trafficking)," said Chilean navy Lt. Cmdr. Francisco Garcia-Huidoboro, a weapons officer aboard Cochrane. "I think it's an interesting exercise. It's always a very good opportunity to have a professional exchange with the other navies, and to operate with them, and to incorporate with the games of the exercise. It's very interesting, especially in Panama, with all the maritime traffic."

Garcia-Huidoboro thinks the boarding party is ready for any challenges that come their way.

"I think that will be an advantage for us, because we are used to doing things without some anticipation," he added. "It's good for the guys to be motivated. They really want to practice everything, and they will do very well."

Even members of Cochrane's crew who aren't part of the boarding team have benefited from events like the PSI boarding, as many sailors watched the boarding take place alongside their ship, gain a better understanding of the operation.

"I think it's really important to participate in this kind of exercise, because it increases the knowledge that we have," said Chilean navy Chief Petty Officer Eduardo Salinas, a gas turbine maintainer aboard Cochrane. "It's always a good thing to know new systems, and new techniques. I think it's a good experience to be here, and also we can make good partners with the other navies."

Cochrane is part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) Pacific, which consists of vessels from Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. For the exercise, CTF Pacific is in charge of defending the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal.

"For us it's important to share friendship with other navies, to see how other navies perform defense of the Panama Canal. It's fun to share with other navies, because we are different people, but have a lot the same," said Chilean navy Cmdr. Jorge Parker, commanding officer of Cochrane.

Although the PSI boarding was conducted only by Cochrane, the Chilean sailors were able to apply what they have learned so far through interactions with other participating navies.

"I think the PANAMAX exercise has a great value in getting to know other navies, and to operate with them" said Chilean navy Lt. Jose Vargas, the senior medical officer aboard Cochrane. "It's a good opportunity for us to get closer to other friendly countries, and to work together with them."

Chilean navy Lt. Edward Gibbons, deputy head of Cochrane's Combat Systems Department agreed with Vargas.

"We get to see different ways of doing things," said Gibbons. "We get to see boarding from different countries, we get to cooperate with their helos on our flight decks, and our helos on their flight decks, so it's a lot of experience to see what we're doing wrong, what we could be doing better, and what they're doing better than us, and what we can copy certain things from them."

To gain another perspective on how they operate, Cochrane hosted two U.S. Navy officers aboard the ship for the duration of the at-sea exercise, Sept. 14-21.

"I think it's always beneficial to exchange personnel between different forces," said Lt. j.g. Louis Vitale, a U.S. Navy Reserves Merchant Marine Officer, who is serving as the target vessel control officer aboard Cochrane during the exercise. "It's beneficial to both sides, you get to learn the pros and cons, lessons learned from each different type of navy, and the different policies being used."

FA PANAMAX is an annual exercise, tailored to the defense of the Panama Canal, exercising responses to any request from the Government of Panama to protect safe passage through the Panama Canal, while respecting national sovereignty. The Panama Canal is critical to the free flow of trade and goods in the region and the entire world. The region's economy and political stability largely depend on the safe transport of several hundred million tons of cargo through the
Canal each year, and FA PANAMAX 2009 is designed to ensure plans are in place to respond to transnational threats to security.

Participants on both the Pacific and Caribbean side of the exercise include forces and integrated staff members from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, Uruguay, who, in cooperation with the United Nations and Conference of Central American Armies, are responding to a variety of simulated events that could affect the most important waterway in the region.

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