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Phoenix Express 2011 Begins At Sea Boarding Exercises

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110607-16
6/7/2011

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Edward Vasquez, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

At Sea (NNS) -- Phoenix Express 2011 (PE-11), a multi-national maritime exercise between U.S., North African and European naval forces, conducted the first day of at sea boarding exercises, June 7.

Five ships got underway from Souda Bay, Greece, on June 6, joining one already at sea, bringing together six of the eight multinational ships participating in PE-11. Two additional ships will join the group on June 8.

Maritime and land forces from 13 countries are participating in the international military partnering exercise that began with Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) boarding team training for participating countries May 23, and is scheduled to end with post-exercise briefings in Augusta (Sicily), Italy, from June 13-15.

During freeplay training June 7, USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) served as a target vessel suspected of illicit trafficking, allowing MIO teams from the Spanish navy ESPS Vencedora, the Malta armed forces, and Royal Morocco navy ship Hassan II to conduct visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) evolutions. In total, MIO teams from seven nations completed individual VBSS evolutions with Groves, and Military Sealift Command ships USNS Big Horn, and USNS Wheat serving as target vessels.

"The drills have been going well; also the interaction between us and the maritime interdiction team has been good," said Gas Turbine Specialist 1st Class (SW) James Sveen, a Groves Sailor who acted as the captain of the boarded merchant vessel. "We are doing maritime interdiction operations as well as visit, board, search and seizure exercises. The questions that they are asking are all the right questions and they have a good situational awareness of where we are and where their boarding team is. Over all, they're doing very well."

The underway portion will emphasize common safety and security concerns in the maritime environment, as well as illegal immigration, criminal activity, narcotics trafficking and weapons trafficking.

"This is good we are bringing together our maritime partners so that we can learn from each other," said Lt. j.g. Blake Tribou, assessment officer for PE-11 attached to Groves. "We want to help foster international relations and reinforce our standing commitment to NATO, as well as show our commitment to the countries of Northern Africa."

While underway, ships and their crew will focus on maritime domain awareness and the automatic identification system, to include interaction between forces afloat and the Combined Maritime Operations Center ashore at Naval Air Station Sigonella (Sicily), Italy.

Combined maritime forces will also execute a series of scenarios exercising force protection measures, MIO – to include VBSS and helicopter VBSS (HVBSS) – search and rescue, replenishment at sea, towing and helicopter operations.

U.S. units participating in Phoenix Express include Groves, USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) and Military Sealift Command's maritime prepositioning ship USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016) and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198).

Additional U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa staff personnel also will participate in this exercise alongside navies and armed forces personnel from Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey.



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