SOUDA BAY, Greece — Sailors from the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force (MESF) Squadron Team 2, Helicopter Visit Board Search and Seizure (HVBSS) Team 4 conducted and participated in fast-roping exercises on a U.S. CH-60 Seahawk helicopter assigned to USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) and a Greek CH-60 Seahawk helicopter with sailors and Marines from nations participating in exercise Phoenix Express (PE09) here, April 30.
PE09, a two-week long exercise designed to strengthen regional maritime partnerships, is part of the overall U.S. Africa Command and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa - Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) strategy to enhance regional stability in the region through increased interoperability and cooperation among regional allies from the United States, Africa, and Europe. Participating countries include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Senegal, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Italy, France, Malta, Croatia, and the United States.
The U.S. HVBSS team is conducting and participating in the training exercises with Greek instructors from the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center (NMIOTC) in order to observe and expose themselves to the tactics, techniques, and procedures of other nations participating in PE09.
"Phoenix Express is in its fourth year and these exercises have really allowed us to grow the curriculum specific to the needs of the countries participating," said Lt. Justin Burney, officer in charge of HVBSS team 4. "The facilities here in Souda Bay offer increased learning capabilities with the Greek training ship ARIS and the Container Exercise (CONEX) facility."
MESF's primary mission is force protection, including anti-terrorism force protection missions. Units conduct force protection of specific shipping and naval vessels operating in the inshore and coastal areas, anchorage and harbors, from bare beach to sophisticated facilities. MESF units deploy worldwide to detect, deter, and defend an area, unit or High Value Asset.
"We go all over the world and work with militaries from many different nations," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Thomas Hernandez, an HVBSS team member. "With this training, we are able to combine all of the positive things that we observe from each other and possibly incorporate into our own operations."
The land portion of PE09 expects to conclude this week and move to the at sea portion of the exercise next week when the HVBSS training team will go underway for further at-sea exercises.