SOUDA BAY, Crete (May 28, 2011) – Phoenix Express 2011 (PE-11), a three-week exercise bringing together 13 different countries that began May 23, combines a vast array of military training and knowledge from all participants in an effort to deter illicit trafficking at sea.
One Special Forces military member from the Greek navy is sharing more than 20 years of his experience with PE-11 participants.
Ens. Alexander Tsaltas, a Greek Special Forces officer who is an instructor at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC) here, moved to Crete after spending many years working in the Athens metropolitan-area on mainland Greece because he wanted a quieter location for him and his family. His position at NMIOTC gave him the unique opportunity to share 21 years of experience in the Greek military – with 16 of those years in the Special Forces – with other militaries from countries all over the world.
“I love the action involved with this training and the chance to do different things with different militaries that come here to train,” Tsaltas said of PE-11. “I can’t work behind a desk; it’s not for me. Sharing my experience is part of my job, and it keeps me motivated.”
Tsaltas will spend the first two weeks of PE-11 helping to train the participating maritime interdiction operations boarding teams in a variety of exercises, including container rappelling, self-defense tactics and weapon disarmament. His ultimate goal is to complete the training with the boarding teams having learned as much from them as they will learn from him.
“Our job here is to enhance the boarding teams according to the modules and exercises they are training for, not re-build what they’ve already learned elsewhere from the ground up,” said Tsaltas. “This type of training takes time, and it’s a very interactive experience. I enjoy seeing how each country’s boarding team utilizes their training and their equipment and at the same time share it with the other teams training with them. Repetition is one of the most important training mechanisms involved, and I’m still learning new things in my training by interacting with the different boarding teams here.”
“The different countries we’ve been training have been very receptive to Alexander’s training techniques,” said Chief Master-at-Arms (EXW) Aaron Bienkowski, an instructor for the Security Training Assistance and Assessment Team (STAAT) at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy, who is helping to train the boarding teams alongside Tsaltas at PE-11. “He’s a very quiet, mild-mannered gentleman, but he welcomed us with open arms from the moment we got here and we immediately got on the same page when it came to the training we would be doing. This is my first NATO experience, but Alexander made sure we were well aware of what we would be doing here. He’s a big reason why NMIOTC is such a great training facility and organization.”
The training experience Tsaltas and his fellow instructors bring to PE-11 is designed to teach the boarding teams not only how to enhance their skills, but to help them continue to grow as leaders in their career field as well.
“Alexander really enjoys what he does in his career and is very patient, and it translates to the training that goes on here,” said Lance Corporal Wyatt Duffield, a team leader for the U.S. Marine Corps 1st Platoon Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) in Rota, Spain, who is helping to train the boarding teams at PE-11. “He really gets behind what he’s doing out here with these countries, and I don’t think a lot of the participants expected his techniques to be as hands-on and as interactive as they are.”
“It’s been a pleasure cooperating with the other instructors here,” Tsaltas said. “The experience they bring with them and the things I’ve learned from them so far have been very helpful in helping me train the different boarding teams. After all, I am only one piece of the chain here.”
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/.