SOUDA BAY, Crete (May 26, 2011) – Phoenix Express 2011 (PE-11), a multi-national maritime exercise, brought Sailors from the U.S. and Greek navies together to sharpen their small arms handling, an essential skill used in conducting maritime interdiction operations (MIO) against vessels suspected of illicit trafficking.
“The first three days of training were classroom presentation. Now we are getting into the practical application portion of the exercise,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Rupert, small arms instructor for PE-11. “There will be a number of different exercises that participants will be going through like fast rope station and room clearing station. What we are doing today is small arms familiarization and tactics.”
The small arms training consisted of a practical module course taught at the NATO MIO Training Center in Souda Bay, Crete. The module, taught by Greek armed forces instructors from the school and supported by a U.S. Navy visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team, included small arms familiarization, clearing corner technique, and climbing techniques.
“The training is going quite smooth. We have two teams here today that are both operating at quite a high level and that makes things easier for us,” said one of the small arms instructors for PE 11, who is not identified due to the nature of his military profession. “Right now, we are going over some small arms training making sure the students are familiar with the weapons systems they are going to be using throughout the in-port phase of training.”
MIO boarding team members from the participating countries will pass through the module allowing the instructors and the VBSS support team not only to teach techniques but also to observe what the participants from each country already know,
“It is fantastic that we are able to connect with the other boarding teams from the Mediterranean and the west coast of Africa,” said U.S. Navy Lt.j.g. Jim Carles, boarding officer for USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49). “This is a real opportunity because these are the guys we will end up working together with in real operations around the Mediterranean.”
Maritime and land forces from 13 countries are participating in the international military partnering exercise, which commenced at the NATO MIO Training Center here on May 23, and which will culminate in a six-day underway portion in the Mediterranean Sea. PE-11 is a unique training opportunity designed to enhance each country’s ability to work together and to deter illicit trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea through joint maritime interception operations and maritime domain awareness.
U.S. units participating in Phoenix Express include Bradley, USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29), and Military Sealift Command 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 will also participate alongside other international naval forces in this exercise.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe -U.S. Naval Forces Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.