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BA 14: US and Mexican Sailors Participate in MIO Exercise

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS141104-09
Release Date: 11/4/2014 1:31:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chelsea Mandello, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- U.S. Navy and Mexican Sailors conducted a maritime interdiction operation (MIO) during exercise Bold Alligator 2014 (BA 14), an amphibious exercise consisting of 19 coalition partners performing crisis response operations, Oct. 31.

Mexican sailors from the Armada Republic of Mexico (ARM) Baja California (PO-162); a patrol vessel that normally conducts drug enforcement countermeasures, MIO and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations in and around the coast of Mexico; boarded U.S. training vessel USNS Apache (T-ATF 172).

MIO provides the capability to deter activities that impede freedom of the seas to include piracy and the illegal transport of people and goods. Methods of deterrence include distraction, delay and detainment. MIO also provides aide to legitimate mariners in distress.

'The goal is to come on board safely, check the ship's documentation and check the health and well being of the crew and vessel,' said Cmdr. Greg Sipple, officer in charge of Commander Strike Group 4 for VBSS and MIO operations. 'Any training such as this is important for making sure that a team is prepared to do a mission successfully.'

'The boarding team did a good job of getting everyone safely on board and everything was done in accordance with how it should be despite the unfavorable sea state,' said Lt. Nick Moreno, attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 40 and currently assigned as an observer aboard Baja California. 'The inspection team was calm and professional the entire way through and was also very open and receptive to any suggestions that the exercise supervisor had. Overall I think this was a very good experience.'

The crew aboard Apache consisted of U.S. civilian and U.S. Navy personnel who simulated being 'dead in the water' due to an engine malfunction.

'We conducted a routine inspection of a ship in need of help; reviewing their documents, making sure the crew was accounted for and that their documentation was correct,' said Mexican Lt. Alan Avila, division officer of Baja California's inspection team. 'We also inspected the vessel's spaces to make sure there wasn't any illegal fishing or materials on board. Overall the inspection went very well and this was a very good exercise as my team stayed calm dealing with a situation that we are not familiar with.'

Once aboard, the inspection team stationed a guard on the fantail, as Avila communicated with the ship's captain to identify any issues the vessel was facing. In this scenario however, there was an added layer of realism as many of the participants aboard the Apache did not speak Spanish, making communication one of the greater challenges as the team began their inspection process.

Despite the inability to fully communicate, the inspection team translated their needs and requests to the crew in order to complete their mission.

'Working with the Americans in this scenario was a very good experience that myself and my team greatly enjoyed,' said Avila. 'Everyone was very courteous during the inspection and even the course corrections were not bad. Overall, I think this was a very good experience and good involvement.'

'Any time we get to operate with international partners, it's a good thing,' said Sipple. 'We break down levels of misunderstanding, improve our levels of cooperation and remove mystery and intrigue.'

Bold Alligator, #BoldAlligator14, is an exercise to improve the Navy-Marine Corps amphibious core competencies along with Coalition, NATO and allied nations. BA 14 hosts 19 countries, 17 vessels and more than 8,000 Sailors and Marines.

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