Phoenix Express 2012 underway in Crete

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Naval forces from Southern Europe North African and the United States are participating in Exercise Phoenix Express, a multinational maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations and help increase safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

Participants and observers in Phoenix Express include Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and United States.

Phoenix Express began on May 7. Exercise events are being held in-port at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operation Training Center (NMIOTC) in Souda Bay, Crete, and aboard the Hellenic navy training ship Aris, while the at-sea training is being conducted aboard various ships.

On May 10 maritime forces participated in a multinational maritime interdiction operation (MIO) training exercise. Service members from Moroccan naval vessel Mohamed V (F 611) and guided-missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG 56) received training from Hellenic and U.S. Navy instructors who focused on boarding procedures.

Chief Master-at-Arms Ruben Villanueva stressed the importance of maintaining control of crew and suspects when conducting MIO procedures, as well as knowing how to work alongside partnering nations.
“It’s important for everyone here to train together and learn to cooperate with one another, because you never know who is assisting you out at sea while performing MIO operations,” said Villanueva, assigned to NCIS Security Training Assistance Team.

Course participants were broken up into teams to practice tactics and techniques they learned including how to handle personnel with weapons. For many participants, this was the first time that they had been given this type of training.
“This was my first time on a MIO boarding team, as well as my first time participating in Phoenix Express,” said Moroccan navy Petty Officer Mohamed Lantamri. “I am really enjoying what I’m learning. The training is very structured and I feel I am learning a lot from the other country’s [participants] as well as the instructors.”
“This is the seventh year for Phoenix Express, and it is one of four African regional ‘Express’ series exercises that are designed to test skills obtained from participating in bilateral and Africa Partnership Station (APS) training in a regional maritime exercise,” said Lt. Chase Ackerman, PE12 exercise planner. “One of the goals of PE12 is to build communication between North African and European partners so that there is a stronger united force in the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time the training provided will help enhance maritime security.”

During the in-port portion of training the focus is on medical and maritime interdiction operations (MIO) training at NMIOTC, while combined maritime forces pier-side conduct workshops in helicopter operations and safety, damage control and firefighting, deck seamanship, navigation, search and rescue (SAR), small boat operations and a leadership course.

At sea, ships and their personnel will focus on maritime domain awareness (MDA) using the Automatic Identification System (AIS), and include interaction between forces afloat and the combined maritime operations center (CMOC) ashore. Combined maritime forces will also execute a series of scenarios exercising force protection measures, MIO – to include visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) and helicopter VBSS (HVBSS) – SAR, replenishment at sea and helicopter operations.