USNS LCPL ROY M. WHEAT, at Sea — Phoenix Express 2009 (PE 09) wrapped up the in-port portion of the exercise May 2 and will begin the underway portion of the two-week exercise on May 4 with 12 naval ships getting underway from Naval Support Activity, Souda Bay, Crete.
The frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) along with fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO 201) and the container ship USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat (T-AK-3016) will represent the United States in this two-week exercise. The U.S. Sixth Fleet Command ship, USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20), will joint the other naval ships later in the week. Nine other ships will also participate in the exercise, to include the Algerian frigate Rais Corso (FFG 903); the Moroccan frigate Hassan II (F 612); the French landing craft CDIC Hallebarde (L 9062); the Italian corvette ITS Cigala Fulgoso (P 490); the Greek frigate HS Salamis (F 455); the Portuguese frigate NRP Joao Roby (F 487); the Spanish corvette ESPS Infanta Elena (P 76); and the Turkish frigate TCG Gokova ( F 496).
While import at Souda Bay, members of PE 09's combined maritime forces trained at the North American Treaty Organization's (NATO) Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC). The center offers classroom training to the participants, as well as simulator training and practical exercises. Throughout the courses, students learned Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) Boarding techniques, small arms training and proper container inspection.
"The first phase of Phoenix Express focused on maritime interdiction operations training conducted by the NMIOTC," said Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Wright, lead planner of the PE09 exercise. "NMIOTC is an excellent training facility and provided PE 09 participates with a valuable opportunity to come together to share information and techniques. Their training was essential to ensure the underway part for this exercise will be a success."
Underway events will focus on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) including interaction between forces afloat and a Combined Maritime Operations Center (CMOC) ashore located in Sigonella, Italy. Combined Maritime Forces will also conduct serials in force protection, maritime interdiction operations (MIO), search and rescue (SAR), replenishment at sea (RAS), towing and helicopter operations. A comprehensive and robust underway training agenda will provide participants with numerous opportunities to operate together and develop productive relationships.
Exercises like PE 09 enable participants to advance information sharing which is crucial to maintaining a region free from transnational threats, as well as enhance capability to conduct multinational naval operations.
"PE 09 is the forth annual exercise in a long-term effort to improve regional cooperation by developing individual and collective maritime proficiencies of participating nations, as well as promoting friendship, mutual understanding and cooperation" said Wright.
The principal aim PE 09 is to improve maritime security in the Mediterranean Sea through increase interoperability and cooperation among regional allies from Africa, Europe and the United States.