The sixteenth iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Phoenix Express came to an end in Tunisia on 28 May.
US Naval Forces Europe and Africa (NAVAF) Director of maritime partnership programme, Rear Admiral Jeffrey S Spivey joined Tunisian Minister of Defence Brahim Bertegi, Rear Admiral Kevin Jones from US Africa Command (AFRICOM), and US Ambassador to Tunisia, Donald Blome, in marking the successful completion of the exercise in a ceremony in Tunis.
“These exercises are necessary steps that build trust in one another and demonstrate our unified commitment to overcome the challenges that threaten the freedom and security of the world’s oceans,” said Spivey. “It is for that reason that I am so excited to see Phoenix Express grow to include the participation of every single nation in north Africa, several coast guards, and the addition of the European Union coast guard functionary agencies.”
The exercise hosted maritime forces from Europe, North Africa, and the United States. This year, eleven nations including Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States, worked together throughout the exercise to increase regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities, enhancing efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea and territorial waters of participating North African nations, the US Navy said.
“Joint military exercises such as Phoenix Express reaffirm and deepen our exceptional bilateral cooperation with Tunisia and ensure that we meet our shared goals of a safe and secure maritime environment through regional collaboration and interoperability,” said Blome.
This year’s exercise was hosted by Tunisia with training taking place throughout the Mediterranean Sea, to include territorial waters of participating North African nations. The at-sea portion of the exercise tested North African, European, and US maritime forces’ abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking and the movement of illegal goods and materials.
“The United States Africa Command appreciates Tunisia hosting Exercise Phoenix Express 2021,” said Rear Admiral Kevin Jones, director, Logistics Directorate, J-4, AFRICOM. “Tunisia is a major non-NATO ally and a willing and capable security partner. USAFRICOM welcomes the opportunity to train together to enhance our capabilities and interoperability with multiple African and European partners and allies to better achieve shared security cooperation objectives.”
Exercises like PE21 provide an opportunity for partner nations to work side-by-side in order to better synchronize and rehearse for potential real-world scenarios.
“Through Determination, perseverance and commitment, we were able to overcome the countless predicaments due the Global Pandemic COVID-19,” said Admiral Adel Jehane, Tunisian Navy Chief of Staff. “We have made our partnership develop, and this success is a great example that in cooperation there is strength.”
Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three regional maritime exercises executed by NAVAF as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst North African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.
The US Navy’s Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) participated in Phoenix Express 2021 during the at-sea portion between 22-26 May.
“As the first Navy warship permanently assigned to the Africa Command area of responsibility, Hershel “Woody” Williams is committed to activities that allow partner and allied nations to collaborate, communicate and train together as we develop solutions to stop illicit activity that threatens the prosperity, safety and security of like-minded sea faring nations,” said Captain Michael E Concannon, commanding officer, Hershel “Woody” Williams, Gold Crew.