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Royal New Zealand Navy leads undersea mine countermeasures effort in a RIMPAC first

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS180730-17
Release Date: 7/30/2018 11:48:00 AM

By Lt. Andrew Thompson

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- In a Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise first, Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Martin, commander, HMNZS Matataua, based in Auckland, New Zealand, served as the undersea mine countermeasures commander (UMCMC) in the Southern California (SOCAL) area of operations.

As the UMCMC, Martin led a task unit that served as part of the larger Combined Task Force (CTF) 177, the RIMPAC Mine Warfare Commander (MIWC) led by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Dave Welch.

Martin and his team provided detailed planning and coordination for all diver and unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) missions within complex water spaces. Their team included a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Mobile Unit (EODMU) 1, the Royal Canadian Navy vessel HMCS Whitehorse (MM 705), a Royal Netherlands Navy UUV team.

To provide adequate working space for the UMCMC and supporting elements, EODMU 1, built a fully-functioning mobile operations headquarters located at Naval Base Point Loma. The spaces included a pre-mission workshop for UUVs, a mission preparation area for divers, and space for dive gear storage. The command center also included a communications suite, and a work space for the planning staff to schedule and execute operations.

Clearance diving and UUV operations are inherently dangerous, requiring large logistics support, deliberate planning and risk reduction by phase across each mission. RIMPAC allowed the team to exercise all phases of mission planning to increase safety and reduce the risk of injury to personnel and damage to equipment.

Clearance divers are qualified EOD technicians capable of rendering safe any ordnance found within the area of operations. The busy waterways of San Diego added another layer of complexity which offered all participants opportunities to effectively coordinate and navigate through military and civilian maritime traffic in order to ensure safe diving operations.

Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.

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