SOUDA BAY, Greece — Multinational military and civilian personnel from five countries participated in hands-on oil spill preparedness training, Sept. 22, at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center (NMIOTC) as part of Eurasia Partnership Capstone 2009 (EPC 09).
In quick response boats, 11 representatives from Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Latvia, and the United States observed the techniques and equipment used to combat oil spills.
"It is important that we are able to work in a unified environment with host nation representatives, as well as our other partner nations," said John Owens, one of four oil spill preparedness instructors for EPC 09. "We have the right resources at the right place, at the right time, and we are talking to the right people to get the job done. If we do have an incident, we are able to work through established relationships and quickly respond as required."
Owens is also the U.S. Navy on-scene coordinator and program manager for Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia and has led oil spill preparedness training for the last three EPCs.
"In the previous two EPC's we were underway on the Mount Whitney [USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20)], and we were primarily focusing on classroom training with countries in the Black Sea region," said Owens. "By coming to shore we are able to go out and perform actual hands on training and observe some of the response equipment and some of the different techniques that are used to combat oil spills. Also, we are fortunate this year to have some host nation personnel with subject matter involvement in this yearrs class, enhancing our cooperative efforts." Many of the students are on-scene environment coordinators for their countries. They have come to EPC 09 not only to receive a better understanding of oil spill preparedness, but also to share their knowledge with other nations.
"I am going to go back to make some suggestions to my chain of command and organize a similar oil spill preparedness program that is organized like the U.S. and other countries' navies," said Greek Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Tsolakis. He also added that, to his knowledge, no one in the Greek Navy has ever received this level of training on oil spill preparedness before.
"Speaking from the environmental perspective, engaging in these types of workshops protects us from the potential negative impacts that oil spills can have, including impacting relationships with host nations," added Owens. "The reality is we need to have an ongoing program with this type of collaboration to ensure optimum spill prevention and response preparedness." EPC is an annual conference hosted by the U.S. Navy, where military and civilian personnel participate in non-formal workshops and seminars aimed at increasing maritime safety and security. This is accomplished through the building of long term relationships at the junior officer and non-commissioned officer level with open and transparent sharing of information. Nations participating in EPC 09 include Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Ukraine, and the United States.