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U.S. Ships Visit Rio Grande

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110509-10

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Stuart Phillips, Southern Seas 2011 Public Affairs

USS THACH, At Sea (NNS) -- U.S. Navy Sailors along with service members from Brazilian, Argentine and Mexican navies arrived in Rio Grande, Brazil, during the Atlantic (LANT) phase of UNITAS 52, May 8.

The partner nations have spent the past three weeks engaging in various joint operations to strengthen interoperability and mission effectiveness.

"The ships we have been working with are nothing less than professional and demonstrate exceptional ship-handling skills," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Johnson, USS Nitze combat systems officer.

Rio Grande is the third Brazilian port the ten ships participating in UNITAS LANT will visit. They have spent time in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, allowing the crew members opportunities to interact, breeding familiarity between the sailors.

During underway transits, the ships have been able to practice maneuvers, participate in gun and missile firing exercises at both air and surface targets, and engage in the culminating event, Exercise Scenario Phase (ESP).

During ESP, the ships were divided into blue and orange teams, and set out to oppose each other.

"The biggest reward of the ESP was the fact that information and communication barriers, after two weeks of exercises, were overcome," said Task Group Commander, U.S. Forces Capt. Marc Weeks. "The teams developed a plan, and smartly executed that plan. We broke down the barriers and implemented solutions that we used to accomplish the mission."

While in Rio Grande, partner nations will spend their last few days solidifying the relationships that have developed during the past weeks. A wreath laying ceremony will precede the closing ceremonies at the 5th Naval District. Also, a community relations project is scheduled at Igreja Dos Santos Anjos Church, Quarta Seçao da Barra, May 9. These opportunities will illustrate the success of this mission.

UNITAS, Latin for "unity," is a combined South American and U.S.-sponsored annual exercise series. Active participants for UNITAS LANT 52 included Brazil, Argentina, the United States, and Mexico. The U.S. Coast Guard also participated.

COMUSNAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

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