USNS LCPL ROY M. WHEAT, at sea — Exercise Phoenix Express (PE09) continued in the Mediterranean this week aboard USNS Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat with sailors from Algeria, Turkey, Portugal and the United States and Marines from Italy using the ship for visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises.
PE09 is a two-week exercise designed to strengthen regional maritime partnerships and is part of the overall U.S. Africa Command theater security cooperation strategy to enhance regional stability through increased interoperability and partnership among participating nations. Participating countries include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Senegal, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Italy, France, Malta, Croatia and the United States.
"Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat falls under the 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility and was designated to provide the training platform for the exercises," said Master Chief Peter J. Grealy, of Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat. "I've participated in several maritime interdiction operations (MIO) exercises, and this was the first time there has been evaluators on board which were beneficial to the boarding teams."
The MIO evaluators were able to observe the tactics, techniques and procedures of the participating teams and will use the information gained to tailor future exercises, according to Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Blair Murri, an MIO evaluator from the Expeditionary Maritime Security Squadron 2, Helicopter Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (HVBSS) Team 6.
"We have learned valuable information that can be used for planning future exercises," said Murri. "Each team has brought something new to the table, and we are seeing where we need to focus for future training."
Sailors and Marines who participated in the exercises aboard Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat were all underway with their respective ships after completing the land portion of PE09. PE09 wraps up when participating ships and nations pull into Taranto, Italy, for the post-exercise program.